Since I last wrote in February, much has happened. The project continues to evolve and, rather like the stonework on the spire, it's been a question of working with the rough with the smooth.
Following the completion of the scaffold, it was possible to inspect the spire mortarwork and stone. Sadly, it was worse than we had thought it would be. On close and thorough inspection, it was clear that ALL the lime-mortarwork on the Spire had been replaced with concrete mortar in the renovation of the 1970s.
This was bad news, as it meant that it all needed to be cut out, and it would have to be replaced with a sympathetic and appropriate lime mortar. Obviously, this would not only slow us up, but also increase the cost substantially, too.
The other additional challenge has come from an unexpected source: the weather-vane. Once we had a full scaffold in place, both on the exterior and within the interior of the spire, we were able to see how bad the stonework erosion had been, and also discover how the weather vane was attached (the weather vane has come down to be cleaned and restored as part of the project). On close inspection, it was found that the weather vane is attached through an elaborate, complex, and rather beautiful piece of wrought-iron engineering (see image). Alas, wrought iron, moisture, and age do not mix well, however. It has suffered severe corrosion, and will need to be replaced. Before this can be done, though, we need to install a temporary structure to ensure the spire is safe and secure. This work is underway, but the discovery of this beautiful piece of over-engineering, has slowed our work.
Both of these discoveries have necessarily delayed the project's progress, and we are currently seven weeks behind. For us, this means not only about another £17,000 additional unexpected costs, and that we shall be under scaffold for until mid-February next year. Whilst we are exploring grants and trusts, anything you could give in support, would be so warmly received. You can click here to make a donation:
That's the bad news!
But the good news is that all the stonework not in need of being replaced has now been cleaned through a process of steam-cleaning. It looks amazing, and once the works are completed, the spire will be a radiant symbol of our church throughout the area, see as it is from Coppetts Wood, Hadley, or New Southgate. We are restoring our church, and also a landmark for North London - so, despite the frustrations and increased costs, it will be very worthwhile.
We are delighted to announce that the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), which is the part of the National Lottery that helps to support important historic buildings, has agreed to support the majority of the works necessary on our Tower and Spire.
What's wrong with the Spire and Tower?
You might well be wondering what an earth is wrong with our spire and tower?
The weather has taken its toll on All Saints, during its 136 years standing on Whetstone's ridge. The prevailing south westerly wind has worn the stonework, and washed away the mortar.
This has been a problem for many years. In the 1970s, they attempted to address the problem using cement render. But this has now added to the problem, as the cement has not bound properly to the stone; rain, frost and wind are now causing it to fall off! Before we do anything, all the cement needs to be removed. Only then can we address the stone replacement and mortar-work repairs. It is very urgent. The south west corner of the spire and tower is now so badly worn that water runs freely down the interior walls of the tower, affecting the porch walls, and the north walls of the church (near the heating unit), where you can see that the plaster is now 'live' and falling off.
The weather has also taken its toll on the structure of the spire too. It is bound structurally with iron rings. These have corroded with the weather, and as they corrode and expand, they are forcing the top of the spire off. Our spire is in danger of collapse if left, and in 2014 the church was added to Historic England's ''Buildings at Risk' register
What's going to be done?
The simple part of the job is to replace worn stone, replace lost mortar, and broken slates at the base of the spire.
The harder task involves the deconstruction of the spire, installation of stainless steel replacement rings, and reconstruction of the spire. This is a huge task.
Will this affect me?
Both the cosmetic and structural works will require full scaffolding and a site office. The spire will be scaffolded from 29th January. As the scaffolders work, the car park, Garden of Remembrance and north porch will have to be closed, for health and safety, and to enable the workers to work quickly and safely - time is very much money in this project!
There is good news. Not only will our spire and tower be made safe for the future, but there will also be a series of events to celebrate this. We hope to put on a very All Saints' play looking at the history of the church, and a concert of 20th century music to celebrate the music the generations of All Saints' have heard over the decades. There will be an opportunity for some members (particularly children) to visit the site, and we hope regularly to show views from the spire, and to update you hear on all that we are doing. WATCH THIS SPACE!
What about the money?
The project at the moment is costing £650,000. We hope that the Heritage Lottery Fund will offer us £500,000 of this, which leaves a shortfall. We have raised another £20,000 from Grants and Trusts, but we still need £130,000. We will be launching an appeal to local people, and businesses to meet our targets. But if you could help, please do think about it. Anything that can keep our spire standing is hugely welcomed! #SaveOurSpire #SOS.
Moving on up
The latest stage of our spire and tower restoration project continues apace, with the scaffolding being erected. The spire is nearly 80 feet tall, and because of high winds and its position on a windswept ridge, the scaffolders have to be very careful about how the scaffold is erected. There are effectively two scaffolds: one from the base of the tower to the base of the spire; the second from the base of the spire to its top.
So far they have not been any great disasters. The ancient electrical infrastructure of the church has offered a few challenges when trying to connect with heavy plant, such as the hoist for the scaffold, but where there is a will (and of course always extra money) a solution can be found. One cannot but admire your strength, and bravery, of scaffolders. They work in all conditions, and start work very early!
Below is a slideshow showing some of the latest images of the work in progress - hope you enjoy them.