As we head into Autumn, with the lovely golden colours and smell of bonfires, I thought it would be good to give you an update on where we are with the Shalfleet Church Windows Campaign.
Last year we were notified of some problems with a number of the windows in the church (mainly in the chancel, up towards the altar). The most alarming of these was the issue affecting the main stained glass window at the east end of the church, over the altar, but there are four in total needing repair. A common problem with ancient windows in churches is that the iron bars that help to hold the glass in place can rust, and this in turn causes the stone around the window to crumble. When this happens, the windows begin to buckle, and the lead holding the panes in place twists, and rain starts leaking in. If this is allowed to carry on unchecked, the danger is that the windows will eventually fall out altogether.
We are blessed at Shalfleet by having the most amazing architect, Christopher Butterworth, who has been keeping an eye on our church for many years. It is Chris who writes the regular reports on the state of the building that are submitted to the Diocese, and whenever we spot a problem, Chris is the first person to hear about it.
We are also lucky to have two specialist firms working for us, Wight Stonemasonry and Southern Lights, whose expertise in this area is second to none.
With this great team in place, the process of establishing the extent of the problem was made significantly less painful, but the conclusion was less jolly: we have a problem which is going to cost in the region of £90,000 to sort. The biggest concern is the main East window, which is our pride and joy and to allow it to deteriorate is obviously not an option. But the process of removing it, pane by pane, repairing the crumbling stonework, renewing the iron bars with stainless steel ones, and putting it all back together again, does not come cheap.
To the left and right of the main East window are two others that require immediate attention. The one to the left of the altar has an opening portion, and has suffered very badly over the years from rust. This one is going to be taken out and the opening portion removed, the iron saddle bars replaced with stainless steel ones, and the glass all cleaned up, before it is replaced, as good as new. The one to the right of the altar has some crumbling stonework in the top left portion, and this is going to be repaired before either a portion of stone falls out and hurts someone or the glass begins to suffer. Finally, the window over the ‘poppy altar’ in the south aisle is suffering from badly deteriorating lead, crumbling stonework and a most alarming buckling of the glass, which makes it look as if the whole window could simply drop out at any moment.
All of this sounds rather alarming, but to reassure you, this type of damage to windows is very common in old churches, and we have caught it before it is too late. But we absolutely must take action now if we are to avert an even bigger problem.
Which brings me to the first pieces of good news! We have been very busy applying for grants to help pay for the repairs, and this week we heard back from two grant giving bodies with the news that we had been awarded £10,000 and £4,500 respectively. We have several more applications in the system, and will continue to pursue all possible options for financing the work.
The second piece of good news is that we have some very generous friends and supporters in and around the parish. So far we have received donations and pledges totalling over £23,000 which is a tremendous start; but clearly we have a long way to go.
The money raised so far will help us in our ongoing applications for grants, as the majority of these bodies tend to offer grants only if there is clear evidence of the church making a determined effort to raise a big chunk of the money itself. So do, please, speak to any of the members of the PCC or the Fabric Trust if you feel you might be able to help with our campaign. You can contact me through the website, call me on 07788 745339, or email the Treasurer of the Fabric Trust direct:
Donations, large or small, will be very welcome, and if you are able to sign a gift aid declaration that helps enormously too, as it boosts the amount given by 25%.
Work is due to begin on the first of the windows in November, so before long you will see evidence of the work going on. We are hoping to carry out the work on the East Window in the summer next year, but before then we still have a large amount of money to raise.
With very best wishes to you all,