Reordering - May 2017

Reordering is a term which is bandied about by a number of us as a sort of shorthand for things happening at Holy Trinity, Minchinhampton. What does it mean?

I am not a great fan of Wikipedia (many aren’t!), but it has some useful comments about reordering. It talks about changes and adaptations in religious buildings, introduction of secular activities into the building, while retaining its primary religious purpose. Thinking about it, we do this already. It talks about Richard Giles as a leader in this field, and many of you will remember that he came to Minchinhampton to talk to us about the subject in January 2015. It also talks about the leading manifestation of it in All Saints, Hereford: we took the building project team there soon after we heard Richard Giles, and yes, we saw their new café area, use of the space for activities such as arts and crafts exhibitions and other activities of general interest – but we have already been moving that way with the building of the Porch Room and the kitchen in the 1970’s, and the updating of the kitchen to modern standards together with new lavatories, only a few years ago. However, All Saints pressed ahead with their updating of their church, spent £1.7m, but found that now 2000 people patronise the café each week, and the worship attendances have increased four-fold.

So what is reordering? It is about repair and restoration of the fabric of the church, it is about modernising it for current use, and making it more flexible as a space for a whole variety of uses. Repair, modernizing and flexibility may seem different facets, but they are not.

We have to do something about the high humidities in the building (sometimes over 90% when they should be 60-65%). We have to take notice of the tendency towards damp, particularly on the north wall - you can see the water condensing in the clerestory (upper windows) during the winter. This will be helped enormously by having a slightly warmer, drier atmosphere, but also needs us to get to grips with the drainage of the ground water from the base of the north wall, allowing us to make sense at the same time of the run-off from the roofs. I know a few like a good pew, but ours aren’t really good, and the distinguished Victorian architect, William Burges, recommended in about 1870 that we got rid of the unsatisfactory pews, and replaced them with chairs. After all, the Victorians put the pews in to cope with Sunday attendances of 450 or more, and that is not our current problem. William Burges it was that designed the magnificent double window in the east wall, a Victorian tour de force, which is now largely obscured by the rood screen erected in the 1920’s. The acoustics are magnificent for organ and choirs, but not so good for speech. The organ is one of the best in the county (the best outside a cathedral?), but it will need significant repair work before too many years have passed (5-10?). And there are other, similar factors to be taken into account.

This is all summed up in the title of our 6Ps fund-raising appeal:

Protecting the Past
Preserving the Present
Planning for Posterity

You will probably be aware that the prime funding for this comes from the David Thomas Trust, but there are also grants from charitable bodies and even more importantly, donations from individuals, and fund raising events – sales, the very successful Auction of Promises, enterprising ways of raising money like commemoration books, yoga classes, concerts, and so many others.

ScreenAll these events are needed to make the first stage happen. It has to be the first, but it is also the biggest, and all of it has to be done together. It involves removing the pews, leveling the floors, moving the font to the middle of the nave, moving the rood screen to a new position between the chancel and the Lady Chapel, putting in a new German-sourced under-floor heating system, operating in tandem with a new boiler, and installing/reinstalling new paving stones and tiles. To make it all work properly, we will need also to add storage in the form of cupboards and a new store behind the kitchen. If funds allow on the day, we can also change the porch itself to make it a much lighter, more welcoming space.

All this has been developed in great detail starting in 2012, and gaining momentum over the last two years. We are now at a significant point. Our plans have been submitted to the Diocesan Advisory Committee, a body of people which is chaired by a surveyor, but also contain senior clergy, several architects, a historian, an archaeologist, experts on art, landscape, organs, bells, glass and conservation/sustainability. They are considering our plans on 7 April 2017. These plans are detailed, and quite long, but you can find them on the Minchinhampton Holy Trinity website.

This the link: Faculty for Reordering of the Parish Church

 Entrance

So where do we go from here? If the DAC endorses our plans, we have to consult with statutory groups, such as English Heritage, the Church Buildings Council, the Victorian Society, the Twentieth Century Society, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings and Stroud District Council. This is then followed by a more general public consultation. Assuming all is agreed, we can go ahead. If not, and if there are serious complaints, the Diocesan Chancellor will have to decide what we can do or not, introducing some delay into the process. Assuming we are not delayed too much, the plan is to do the work, primarily on the floor, in the period from July to end-November, 2017. The church will be out of action for much of this period, but we hope to be able to still use the Porch Room, kitchen, toilets for most of that period.

We are delighted that Princess Anne has become our patron. Some of you will have had the chance to meet her when she visited the church to hear of progress, in February. She was keen to understand our plans, and urged us to press forward. More to the point, she has asked to come back early next year, to check up on how we have got on!

Dome

STOP PRESS: The Diocese have considered our plans, and are keen to progress. They have urged us to go ahead to consult with bodies that look after Britain’s heritage, and advise the public of our plans. After that, they are keen to give us permission to go ahead.
Howard Browning