REPAIR AND RESTORATION 2012 - 2015 (by Mike Wynn)


Every five years each church belonging to the Church of England undergoes a detailed building inspection. The report which follows this inspection includes an assessment of the church yard and its trees, the state of the church roof, drainage systems, the church windows, the woodwork inside the church and above all the state of the stonework; with reminders about insurance, health and safety matters, looking after the heating system, care of the bells and a host of other matters including annual maintenance. The report also indicates which items need immediate attention and which are not as urgent. Inevitably it is going to cost money.

St. Mary's Church, Little Driffield had a quinquennial inspection in mid 2010 and it soon became obvious that the fourteenth/fifteenth century church tower was in need of urgent attention and also the south wall. The tower was suffering not only from age but also from repairs and maintenance that had been superficially done over the past 200 years, sometimes with incorrect materials, especially cement and ferrous metal. This modern cement as opposed to lime mortar had caused the stonework to erode more rapidly than normal. The parapet and drainage around the top was in a very parlous state and the small pyramidal roof on top of the tower needed attention.

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The interior of the church is three feet lower than the exterior ground level on the south side so the south wall had been suffering from damp for a long time due to the high level of the church yard outside and ineffective drains allowing water to soak into the wall. There had been concerns about this wall since 2008. It did not seem sensible to tackle these problems separately as it was likely they were connected.

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The church wardens read the quinquennial report with some concern; then consulted the Parochial Church Council and church architect who had written the quinquennial report agreeing in April 2012 to apply to English Heritage for a grant to undertake the repairs needed. Generations of our predecessors have carefully nurtured this Grade 2* church, it was now up to us to ensure this building was looked after and prepared for the rest of the twenty first century. The necessary forms were obtained from English Heritage, completed and returned to English Heritage by the end of June 2012. In September we heard that our application would be going forward for consideration. This was swiftly followed by an English Heritage architect undertaking a survey of the church. We had to apply to the diocese of York to obtain a faculty which would approve and allow us to carry out the repair and restoration. Then on December 19th 2012 we were informed that our application had been successful. We would receive a grant towards Stage One of the work which would be an investigation into what needed to be done. Following the successful completion of Stage One we would receive a further grant for Stage Two which would be for the actual repair and restoration. Needless to say we had to match the grant funding with our own fund raising. Through previous good management we had some money in the bank for this eventuality but much more was needed.

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The architects, Ferrey & Mennim of York, were duly appointed in January 2013 to the repair and restoration of St. Mary's Church. The P.C.C. had to raise funds to match the amount of grant from English Heritage so a fund raising committee was formed and throughout 2013 events were organised including bingo evenings, date in a diary, the sale of tea towels, the sale of a book about the 1890 restoration of the nave and chancel (see below), a garden party and Christmas Concert and in 2014 a coffee morning and selling bacon ‘butties' at the Farmers' Market. The congregation was asked to support the fund raising with personal donations. Some residents of Little Driffield village contributed and a few local businesses gave donations. A number of local and national funding bodies for historic buildings were approached and we successfully raised a lot of money from the Wolfson Foundation, All Churches Trust, Garfield Weston Trust, Alan Evans Memorial Trust, Yorkshire Historic Churches Trust and our local Driffield Horace Taylor Trust. Without all this support the project would just not have been feasible. By the end of 2013 we were able to demonstrate to English Heritage that we had obtained the necessary matching funding.

In late May 2013 Stage One investigations took place, using a hydraulic platform, with an inspection of the tower walls and tower roof, the drainage system and interior woodwork. This was followed by visits from specialists and written reports on the windows, asbestos, bats and archaeology. Our architect drew up the plans and detailed specification, prepared future maintenance schedules and future church opening times (both conditions of our grant). All this material along with our fund raising details was submitted to English Heritage in December 2013 and accepted by them.

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However, in November 2013 contractors visited in order to submit tenders. All the tenders were well in excess of the cost expected as a great deal more work had been found necessary than originally thought. Consequently, we had to apply to English Heritage for an enhanced grant and this delayed our anticipated March/April 2014 start. English Heritage noted we had raised a substantial sum of money and stepped in to raise their grant. This was a real relief and meant work could go ahead, now hoping to start in late April. It was actually May 8th when work commenced with scaffolding being erected the next week.

Inside the church all the pews on the south side were taken out and rotten wood panelling removed to expose the south wall. A bitumastic substance coating the walls also had to be removed whereupon beads of water soaked out of the wall. The floor boarding and joists all needed replacing as there was a great deal of rot, much more than expected. The south wall was also exposed on the outside by digging a trench down to the interior floor level. Pre 1890 the nave wall was quite substantial but Temple Moore in 1890 made it quite thin and erected the present day buttresses for support. Evidence for the original thickness of the wall was exposed in the trench. The interior work was done first in order to let the wall dry out over a number of spring and summer months. New joists and floorboards were emplaced followed in September by the reinstallation of the pews and new wall panelling to the 1890 Temple Moore design.

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The trench on the south side revealed some interesting archaeology from the mediaeval period. This work was overseen by Colin Briden, historic buildings archaeologist. The bases of a number of pillars were exposed; these originally carried arches, indicating St. Mary's once had a south aisle (we also know this from a report by Stukeley in 1740 who said " ... Little Driffield, where has been a large church with two rows of arches, but the side walls are now removed and built under those arches"), but now, here was the evidence for all to see. There was also the base of a mediaeval doorway which at an earlier mediaeval stage would have been part of a south porch that led into the south aisle. When the south aisle was pulled down the doorway was inserted into the ‘new' south wall of the church. This could have been about 1500 as a 1491 document indicates the chancel walls were defective, the nave was dilapidated and the bell was broken. At a later stage the church wall was rebuilt and a new (third) south door built at a higher level and offset to the mediaeval door, using some of the old stonework. This in turn was blocked up by Temple Moore, in 1890, when a new (the present) north porch and door was built. (The roof of the north porch was extensively repaired in 2010). The trench alongside the south wall and between the buttresses has had a retaining wall of engineering bricks built and the gap between the bricks and nave wall backfilled with mortar. This should prevent further ingress of moisture into the south wall. The gutters and drain pipes were refurbished and fed into a new drain beneath the new gravel path. The easternmost buttress between the nave and chancel had at some stage subsided southwards and been underpinned with a large amount of concrete so the new drain had to bend round the concrete. All drainage from the south side now feeds into this drain which curves round the west end of the tower, under the hedge and into the manhole a few metres from the hedge.

Much work has been done on the tower. The first work was carried out on the pyramidal roof at the top of the tower which was dismantled, repaired and reassembled using some recycled slates. New drainage now throws the water away from the tower walls and the weather vane (a cockerel; St. Peter's being a previous dedication of St. Mary's Church) was refurbished. The lightning conductor has been brought up to modern standards.

Some repair and restoration was carried out in 1890 to the parapet round the top of the tower but this now needed further urgent work. Some parapet stones had been strapped together in 2010 in order to make them safe. Also, the tower walls had been pointed with modern cement at some stage and this had caused erosion to a lot of stonework, especially on the western face. The parapet has now been extensively repaired and restored with new stone in places. Over 100 stones have been removed from the tower wall and replaced. Much descaling of loose material has been needed and all joints have been raked out on the top half of the tower prior to the new stone being emplaced and repointed with lime mortar. Some of the tracery work in the open windows has had to be replaced on the west face of the tower. This was quite difficult as it required the removal of quite a number of stones and support for the stonework above whilst some new stones each weighing over a quarter of a ton were manoeuvred into place. All this tower stone work proceeded very slowly throughout the summer and autumn due to the sporadic delivery of stone from the quarry to the stone mason with one period of five weeks when no stone was received from the quarry.

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As work on the tower was completed in early November, 35 plinth stones arrived, to be emplaced along the base of the south wall. This was followed by replacing the York flagstones between the buttresses and emplacing a new gravel path with edging along the full length of the church. The scaffolding was not removed until December 8th. This delayed the final tidying up jobs which were completed and the contractors off site by December 9th 2014. The architect issued a certificate of practical completion for the contractor on December 17th.

Due to circumstances beyond our control i.e. the above delays, the glazing was deferred until spring 2015. Glazing work commenced, on schedule, on April 13th with the complete removal of the west window, other smaller sections removed and repair of the opening hoppers. All the stanchions and saddle bars were overhauled and redecorated along with a range of smaller jobs to lead work and fractured glass. This was completed on May 13th.

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The Stage 1 grant from English Heritage in 2013 and our own resources enabled us to pay the Stage 1 bills which came under budget. Reclaiming V.A.T. from the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme (LPWGS) proved difficult and laborious as the government changed the rules on October 1st 2013 mid way through the Stage 1 work.

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During Stage 2 the PCC claimed 50% of the EH grant as soon as the contract was signed; 45% when we were approximately half way through the work and the final 5% once we had the Certificate of Completion and drawn up the final accounts. Stage 2 was estimated to cost £139,584 but the final cost was just £135,626.
Finance management depended on reclaiming the VAT as quickly as possible in order to build up the bank balance to pay the final bill from the contractor. We continued to fund raise throughout 2014. In spite of two changes in the administrators of the LPWGS, having to help them understand what an architect did and sending 94 pages of specification we received the VAT which enabled us to pay the final bill.

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Our thanks go to everyone concerned with and involved in the repair and restoration of this village church. Without your support and active co operation the project would not have been feasible. Thank you.
The church was decorated for a Celebration Weekend, July 4th and 5th. On the evening of July 4th Yorkshire Wolds Versatile Brass performed to a full church with wine at the interval being taken outside in full evening sunshine. Sunday service was Holy Communion with invited guests, followed at lunch time with a Christening.

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The book referred to above is entitled:
"The Restoration of St. Mary's Church Little Driffield 1888 - 1890.
It is available in Sokells, Horsley and Dawson, the Council Offices in Driffield; also direct from the author, Mike Wynn. It costs £10 with all the profit going to the 2012-2015 repair and restoration.

The Parochial Church Council (P.C.C.) of St Mary's Church, Little Driffield.
Vicar: Rev. A. Ison
Church wardens: Mr. R. Gooch and Mr. M. Wynn.

English Heritage and the National Lottery, York.

Chartered Architects: Ferrey & Mennim Ltd.,York; Mr. A. Boyce, Mr. J. Steel.

Contractors: Crighton Conservation & Steeplejacks Ltd., Brompton, Northallerton;
Mr. D. Crighton