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.
September 2019 update
Thanks to the generosity of the people of Highley and other visitors, together with a significant donation towards heating, and a recent generous bequest we are now in a position to start some of the work.
On 9 September we started work inside the church to install a new insulated wooden floor, install heating and check and repair the power circuits. We will retain the front pews but the pews in the rear half will be replaced by chairs. This will result in a building that is both warmer and more flexible in its use. It will ensure easier access for the less able and ensure those in wheelchairs or children in buggies can sit with their families.
At the same time we are looking to update the sound and vision systems to ensure ease of use and fit for purpose.
The church will be closed during this work, but we hope to be back in the church sometime in November.
At the start of 2020 work will start on the tower and porch. You will see the tower covered in scaffolding to enable repairs to be made to the structure of the tower, to re-roof and make major repairs to the associated gutter system. Additionally, repairs to the stonework will be made, the wind vane refurbished and the pole on which it sits replaced together with a raft of other lesser items. Work on the porch will include replacement of the water damaged stone and various cracks and associated work to minimise future water damage.
We hope this work will be completed by Easter.
The church should remain open but access may be restricted at times whilst the porch is repaired.
We also hope that completion of these two projects will allow 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 in theory the church bells can be rung they 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 planned will allow it to better meet today’s needs and protect the building for future generations.