St. Michael’s Church, Wiltshire

Informing repair work through historical analysis and inspection

This is a fine Grade II* listed church, set within a small remote community parish in East Wiltshire.  The existing building is based around a 14th and 15th century sanctuary and nave, which had apparently been little altered since the 17th century. We were appointed as Quinquennial architects by the PCC and our work shows our abilities to analyse historic structures and identify likely causes of the underlying issues.

The building is much loved and well cared for by its small parish. Constructed of flint with dressed stone quoins and opening surrounds, it has later sections of soft red brick set beneath clay tile and low pitched lead roofs.

We carried out two rounds of visual inspection before producing a detailed Quinquennial Report allowing our clients to understand relative priorities and budget for works. We quickly identified a number of individually small issues that had led to rainwater penetrating parapet walls with consequential damage to roof timbers and masonry. If these small issues were not addressed, they would rapidly escalate.

We also identified that the building had a history of damp penetration at low level. The later alterations, some in an apparent attempt to address the damp issues, had actually made the problems worse.

The building has also suffered two major lead thefts within the last seven years. As a solution, our heritage team put to the DAC and the Local Authority Planning Officer the need for using alternatives to lead. We submitted an application to use stainless steel as a replacement, which has a long life and negligible scrap value in an exposed site. Our proposal received support from the Society for Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB), the Churches Conservation Trust, the Wiltshire Churches heritage group and – importantly – Historic England.

Despite many hurdles, a replacement steel roof was back on within six months of being stolen – an exceptionally quick turnaround time for our client.