Our run of success at the Sussex Heritage Trust Awards has continued this year with our project for the new annexe building at St Mary’s Church, Thakeham receiving Highly Commended.
We worked closely with the parish and Valley Builders Ltd to deliver this project, which was to provide a new vestry with storage and a flexible meeting room, complete with accessible WC facilities, and a new plant room. In parallel, the church interior was sensitively reordered to improve access and allow users to hold additional events within more flexible spaces.
St Mary’s sits atop a hill and is a key focal point within the village of Thakeham. Victorian intervention to the north of the building had included a modest vestry between the north wall of the nave and the west wall of the north transept. Other structures included a later adjacent, part subterranean, boiler house and various storage sheds.
The interior of the church was cold, damp and poorly lit, plasterwork was showing evidence of moisture damage, and the parish had particular concerns with regard to the condition of external stonework and the consequential damage of the historic fabric internally. Coupled with a lack of suitable welfare and meeting facilities, it was felt that the building was no longer fit for purpose.
The building’s arrangement severely limited the activities that could take place within and who could attend them. Having explored a number of reordering options, it was proposed to remove the later structures before gathering their functions into a single storey extension that utilised an existing north door.
The new annexe has been carefully detailed so that it is subservient to the church. The oak board-on-board cladding is weathering to a silver, complementing the colour of the stonework. Glazing is used to form a junction between modern and historic, allowing the once external stonework to still be viewed externally, as well as the 12th century window that is now lit by the bank of rooflights along the apex of the zinc roof. The churchyard is directly accessible from the annexe and a corner window provides uninterrupted views and good daylighting.
In addition the lighting system within the church was modernised, a new audio-visual system has been installed helping to increase flexible use, and the heating system was replaced with new cast iron radiators and under-pew heaters. Lowering pew platforms and reorganising the pews has created space that allows more flexible worship and music groups to take a more active role in services, as well as other activities to take place.
External repointing, select replastering and conservation repair of the leaded lights and stained glass has improved the appearance but also made the church more comfortable inside and will help to safeguard the works to the interior for the future.
The new annexe and its facilities, with the reordered interior, mean that St Mary’s can now be used beyond Sunday services, connecting the church with the community and creating a more sustainable future for the building.
Images courtesy of Ben Park
For further information on the Sussex Heritage Trust, please visit their website.
To read about some of our other ecclesiastical projects, please click here.
If you would like to discuss a new project, please contact us.