Church of Saint Andrew and Saint Peter, Blofield Case Study
Consecrated 1420, completed 1444
Architect, Contract Administrator, all job stages
This is a large and very grand church built when Norfolk was rich from the wool trade. The Perpendicular tower is 110 feet high and contains 8 bells, which are rung regularly. It has decorative flushwork on the buttresses and plinth and four pinnacles, in the form of statues, at the top. There are raised Georgian box pews at the rear of the nave and a marble monument to Edward Paston (1630) in the Chancel. The chancel is separated from the nave by the remains of the rood screen with painted panels of the apostles. The medieval font is carved to depict scenes from the Nativity through to the Ascension. There is some high quality Victorian and modern stained glass in the nave windows. It is listed Grade 1, meaning it is an internationally important building.
Lead Up to Project
Ruth Brennan was appointed as architect shortly after the previous architect’s five yearly inspection report identified some serious structural problems with the tower. There was a large bulge under the belfry windows on the north side, and numerous cracks in the staircase turret. The decorative flint flushwork on the buttresses was so loose that pieces kept falling off, and were regularly collected by the churchwarden. Shortly after the inspection, the tower was cordoned off to protect members of the public from falling masonry.
The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a grant for further investigations and to prepare a specification for repairs. The PCC hired a cherry picker, so that a closer inspection of the tower could be made. It was easy to see then how bad the damage was – many years of rain and frost had loosened the flints and decayed the limestone dressings. The string courses were eaten away, allowing water to run down the walls and penetrate the flint walling, washing out the mortar. The flint facings started to part from the rubble core, and as they did so dust fell into the gap and wedged the facings further and further away, causing large hollow sections which are in danger of falling off.
The flushwork on the buttresses is of very shallow pieces of shaped flint, which are set in lime mortar. Over the years, the mortar has become friable and the flints are so loose they can be easily picked out by hand.
The cracks in the staircase turret were partly due to thermal movement, as well as dust wedging. The walls are very thin, so the walls now consist of several very high, thin, separate vertical pieces. It is possible to see daylight through the cracks from inside.
Further inspections were done of the south aisle roof, where the slates are loose, and the leaking rainwater guttering and downpipes.
Simon Rossi, of Rossi Long Consulting, prepared a structural engineer’s report and Ruth Brennan prepared a specification for the repairs. She also prepared a maintenance plan and an access audit. Tenders were received in September, and English Heritage are due to award a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for the works shortly.
Work on Site
Work starts on the repairs in the Spring of 2013. They will entail a complete scaffold of the tower and aisles. The loose flints will be reset, using stainless steel fixings to support them and to prevent similar problems in the future. The steel will be hidden within the masonry. The damaged limestone dressings will either be refaced or renewed, depending on their condition. Ruth Brennan will be inspecting the work regularly and dealing with any technical issues which arise. It will be a challenging and interesting project – watch the News section of this website for developments.