Outlook Issue 15 Winter 2011
News and Views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
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Towering Tales
Parish pump Towering tales At a height of 108ft, the tower of St. Mary’s dominates the surrounding landscape. It has stood for over 500 years as a silent witness to the glory of God and the comings and goings of the people of Woodbridge – if only it could speak, what tales it could tell! The maintenance and upkeep of the tower, as with the rest of the church building, is the responsibility of the Church Wardens and the Parochial Church Council although the land on which it is built legally belongs to the Rector. Each year, the Church Wardens are required to give the Rector a single rose as rent for continued use of the land. There is also the requirement to keep this Grade 1 listed medieval building in good repair for the use of current and future generations. Every five years, the building is thoroughly inspected and any necessary repair work identified. The last inspection highlighted the need for repair to high level masonry and the replacement of the lead roof of the tower. Two successive winters of severe freeze-thaw cycles have made the situation much worse with quite large lumps of stone falling in the churchyard, fortunately with no damage to life or limb! Repair work was started on 25th July this year with the erection of the scaffolding (see picture above). Originally it was proposed to scaffold the tower on two sides only for most of its height with the scaffolding at the top wrapping round all four sides to give access to the areas to be worked on. This would have allowed continued access by vehicles and preserved the use of the West Door for ceremonial occasions. Unfortunately, the original design proved unstable so the scaffolding had to be extended around the tower. Once the scaffolding was up, close inspection of the masonry revealed that the damage was more extensive than was apparent from ground level. It is thought that, sometime in the 19th century, the tower was extensively repaired using poor quality stone. This stone, when viewed close up, has a network of fault lines or fractures which allow moisture to seep in, making it prone to frost damage. Interestingly, the original medieval stone, although heavily weathered, is structurally sound. With costs escalating, it is now a race against time – for the builders to complete the work before the onset of winter and for St. Mary’s to find the extra funding to pay for it. And through all this, the tower stands as a silent witness … John Wright (Project Manager)