In 2014 the five yearly inspection of St Mary’s Church Building identified many faults that should ideally have been rectified within 12-18 months. At that time the estimated cost was in excess of £100,000. This presented a huge challenge to the church and village.
Later in 2014 a routine electrical test identified problems with the wiring to the under-pew heaters and the system was condemned and could no longer be used.
To add to the problems, as plans were developed it became clear that the costs had been significantly underestimated. The need for these repairs resulted in the building being added to the Historic England “Buildings at Risk” register.
March 2021 update
Thanks to the generosity of the people of Highley and other visitors, together with a significant donation towards heating, and a very generous bequest we were in a position to start work.
Between September and December 2019 work was carried out inside the church to install a new insulated wooden floor, install heating and replace the power circuits. We have retained the 10 front pews and provided chairs for use in the rear half of the nave and under the tower. We now have a building that is both comfortably warmer and more flexible in its use witheasier access for the less able and we now have the ability to ensure those in wheelchairs or children in buggies can sit with their families. We have also updated the sound and vision systems to ensure ease of use and fit for purpose.
Between February and November 2020 work was carried out on the tower and porch. The tower was re-roofed and major repairs made to the associated gutter system. Additionally structural repairs and stonework repair and replacement was done and the wind vane refurbished and the pole on which it sits replaced together with a raft of other lesser items. We alsoworked on the porch to replace an area of water damaged stone and various cracks and it was re-roofed. Additionally a French drain was installed along the north side of the building to reduce moisture levels in the walls and floors.
We had hoped that this work would be completed by May 2020, but delays, site shutdowns and the slowing of work due to Covid social distancing requirements extended the work period.
We thank our contractor Mike Gammon, together with his staff Clive, Mac and Dave for the excellent work they have carried out!
The completion of this work has allowed the building to be removed from the “At Risk” register!
Is there more work needed?
Unfortunately, yes. This includes replacing the lighting system; work on the windows, ceiling insulation, various repairs to other stonework and sundry other items. Whilst the church bells can be rung they ideally need major repairs to preserve the historic bells, improve their sound and make them easier to ring. We would also like to install a toilet and kitchenette under the tower. We will continue to work on these items as fundraising allows.
Why are we doing this?
There has been a church in Highley for nearly 900 years. St Mary’s is the oldest building in the village still serving the community. We hope it will continue to do so for many more years to come. Over those 900 years it has evolved to suit the needs of the time and we believe that the work that we have carried out will allow it to better meet today’s needs and protect the building for future generations.