St James' church is part way through a multi-phase restoration programme costing well over £1 million. The first - and most dramatic - phase was completed in April 2016 with the complete rebuild of the spire. The spire (the tallest in Wirral at 172 feet) had become unsafe. With the aid of a £250,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, and a major fundraising exercise by parishioners, we achieved a restoration which was nominated by the National Churches Trust as the country's best restoration project of 2016.
2018 saw us engaged in Phase 2 of our restoration, involving remedial work to the tower masonry and the complete re-design and upgrade of the rainwater goods and discharge systems at the east end of the church. Again, a generous grant of £250,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund helped us undertake the work.
Subsequent phases will address the roofing of the side aisles, the masonry of the main body of the church and the conservation of the fine murals in the chancel which have deteriorated due to the chronic damp penetration problems.
Our aim is to have a building which is not just safe and well-preserved, but one which is adapted to the needs of serving the community in the 2020's. Completing the restoration of our beautiful building must be achieved within the wider context of achieving our long term vision for the parish.
It was a long haul, but the spire restoration was completed in April 2016. The last of the scaffolding was removed, revealing the fully restored spire. The new stonework can clearly be seen, including the replacement of the external decoration that had been lost in the 1950s. And so the appearance of the spire now resembles the way it looked for the first hundred years of its life. This "before-and-after" photograph shows just how dramatic the restoration has been.
It has been a fascinating process; and you can see it all in one minute flat! Watch this fascinating time-lapse video:
Following the successful rebuilding of the spire, Phase 2 of the St James' restoration programme started in February 2018 thanks to the award of another £250,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. We were also awarded grants of £10,000 from the Garfield Weston Foundation and £1,000 from the Historic Cheshire Churches Preservation Trust. The work covered the following;
- Repointing, repairing and renewing defective stonework and tracery in the tower.
- Replacing and rehousing the dangerous slate louvres inn the bellchamber openings.
- Reconfiguring drainage routes and mending defective gutters around the tower.
- Improving access from the tower to adjacent roofs, in order to improve maintenance.
- Renewing waterproofing details above the chancel arch.
- Renewing defective guttering between tha chancel land Lady Chapel roofs.
- Addressing the poor condition of the flat roof of the vestry lobby.
- Removal of old unstable services installations in the tower.
Work was completed in September 2018. The main benefit of the work programme is the eradication of the chronic dampness in the walls at the east end of the church. This dampness threatened the magnificent wall paintings in the chancel area (have a look at them by clicking on the St James' Virtual Tour on our Home Page). Some of the paintings are now deteriorating badly. Following the Phase 2 work, the walls will eventually dry out, which will enable conservation of the paintings to begin.
The pictures below show some of the Phase 2 work taking place. The left hand one is the back gutter between the tower and north transept roof. Previously this was a narrow cul-de-sac which allowed water to be directed only through a tortuous route around the tower before reaching the downspout. It was frequently blocked. The new back gutter is now higher, much wider and discharges to a newly created hopper and downspout. The detailing at the roof-gutter interface has also been much improved. Furthermore, a new door has been created in the south wall of the tower, to give access from the clock chamber to the new guttering, which will enable it to be regularly cleaned and maintained. The right hand picture shows the new coping stones, upstand, secret gutters and improved detailing above the chancel arch. This area had been a major source of damp penetration as a result of poor detailing and workmanship in previous restoration attempts.
We continue to be so grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund - without whose grants this restoration work would not have been possible - and to the Garfield Weston Foundation and the Historic Cheshire Churches Preservation Trust whose financial support has made such an important contribution to achieving our objectives.
We also appreciate all the contributions which our congregation and the community have made, through their generous giving and support at fundraising events.