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Restoring the Church Tower

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You will probably have noticed that the church tower has been partly covered in scaffolding.

This is because the stonework on the north side had deteriorated badly. Some stone  needed replacement as there was danger of bits falling and damaging people or the roof. Also, some work done about seventy years ago had caused further problems: an iron bar, built into the parapet to strengthen a corner, had swollen in summer heat, contracted in winter cold and so begun to shatter surrounding stonework. Extensive repointing in concrete, which must have seemed a good way to strengthen the walls, actually causes cracks between concrete and softer Oxford stone so that water seeps into the wall. One of the unwanted results has been water leaks around the pulpit and ministers’ seats.

Since mid-October when the scaffolding went up, stone masons have been busily working from the top down, replacing damaged stone, knocking out unwanted concrete and repointing with a lime-mortar mixture specifically prescribed by our architect. A roofer has been checking and repairing lead flashings, replacing broken tiles and asbestos water goods and a window expert will replace broken windows. The work should be finished by the end of February and one very important task will be included: the regilding of the weathercock.

That much-appreciated feature on the top of the tower swings freely and is responsive to the slightest breath of wind. It was expertly engineered by Arthur Smith, Faith Fitchett’s father, and was installed some seventy five years ago. More recently maintained by his son-in-law, the late Jim Fitchett, a fourth refurbishment will now be taken care of by his grandson, Arthur Smith Fitchett. He will take this opportunity to bring it to ground again, give it a light sandblast, repaint it and put it back to crown the tower and flash with shining precision in the sunlight.