Walden church roof work about to start

St Mary's Church, Saffron Walden, Essex. Rector, Rev’d Jeremy Trew on the church roof to view damage

St Mary's Church, Saffron Walden. Rector, Rev’d Jeremy Trew, on the church roof to view the damaged copper covering - Credit: Steve Hasler

Work is about to start on replacing the failing copper covering on the chancel roof of St Mary’s Church, Saffron Walden with traditional lead. 

The Rector, Rev’d Jeremy Trew said the contractors will work only on weekdays and work will be stopped for weekday services including funerals.

Copper was installed in 1959 when all church roofs were repaired during a shortage of lead.

Lead was re-installed on the south aisle and south chapel roof when these were repaired in 2000.

In January, Director of Music Oli King noticed from the organ loft that there appeared to be slight water damage to the plasterwork on the wall high up on the south side of the chancel.

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Investigation revealed the copper had at least 20 holes or rips.

Steve Hasler, the project leader said: “When the roof was last inspected by our architect in 2017 he thought that the copper would last for only another five years or so.

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"He was right and the copper has failed quite rapidly and extensively.

"The holes and rips were all quickly, but temporarily, repaired with roofing tape and we met with the church architect in early March to plan the replacement of the copper.”

The works were delayed to mid-September, to allow a maternity roost of bats that take residence under the chancel roof each summer to leave for their autumn and winter home roosts.

The first stage will be to construct a temporary roof over the chancel and the existing roof alarm will be extended to include the temporary roof, which will take three to four weeks to build.

The new permanent roof is expected to take approximately 16 weeks to complete and might be finished by Christmas but all of the work will be outside of the church.

The contract has been awarded to Bakers of Danbury.

To get an initial idea of the state of the wood panels under the copper, and how many might need to be replaced, the contractors will be lifting a sheet of copper in the south east corner of the chancel in mid-September.

Thermal insulation will be installed under the lead to reduce the church’s carbon footprint.

Church architect Francis Maude said: “It is important that we take the opportunity to improve the building’s performance while we have access to the roof. The church is a living building, part of the community it serves.”

The cost of the work, approximately £120,000, is being paid by the church’s Restoration Fund, and from the church’s Fabric Fund.

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