You may have lots of questions. These are answered in the documentation currently available for viewing in the Church Room in North End. The drawings and other documents will be available there during the 'public notice period' from 2nd to 30th July. However we have put together a list of some of the questions that you may have.
Why take some of the pews out?
The pews that form the bulk of the seating at the moment were installed by the Victorians in the 1860s during the last major changes to the building. They are not particularly important examples of Victorian pews and in their own right do not have any special historical significance. The plan is to remove these Victorian pews and their platforms from the nave to make way for under-floor heating, a stone floor and flexible seating on wooden chairs.
The pews which are currently in the north and south aisles are of an altogether different vintage and significance, with some parts of these pews dating back to mediaeval times. They are in varying states of repair and we plan to restore and retain the best of them, repositioning around the perimeter of the building.
Worship during Victorian times tended to be much more formal than we are used to today and this is this is reflected in the rigid layout of the pews. They have a number of disadvantages as they:
Why is under-floor heating needed?
The current system is very ineffective as most of the heat goes straight up making the church quite cold and unwelcoming. It is also noisy which can be distracting and make it hard to hear what is being said.
Under-floor heating gives out 'radiant heat' which is much more effective in large spaces with high ceilings. The large floor area means the floor itself does not need to be that warm in order to heat much more uniformly so making the space feel much more comfortable. It does however require the floor to be clear of the plinths which the pews are fixed to. The heating can be left on very low to protect the building (the current system can be harmful to the building as it can lead to swings in temperature and moisture levels). The heating system will be zoned to only heat the parts of the building that are needed at a particular time.
Who are the architects?
Our architect is Nigel Walter of Archangel, a firm of architects who are based in Cambridge. Nigel is the founding director of Archangel, and a Specialist Conservation Architect. He gained a first in Architecture from the University of Cambridge and holds an MA in Conservation from York. He has considerable experience or working with churches, particularly in Ely Diocese where he is on the Diocesan List of approved architects.
Nigel has authored a very helpful booklet on church architecture, Church Buildings for People (with a forward written by the Bishop of Ely), available to purchase here. Nigel runs a website site about church building and reordering projects which you can view here.
Will you still be holding traditional services?
We will continue to hold a wide range of services from informal Praise & Prayer evenings with contemporary Christian music to traditional occasions such as Christmas Carol services and Easter events. The only difference is that we will be able to arrange the church to suit the event - and you will have a much more comfortable seat!
Will the building be available for community use?
We have great plans to provide a resource that is available for the community just as it used to be. The nave of the church was originally an open space frequently used for community gatherings until the time that pews were installed. Historic church records (notably the churchwardens’ accounts of 1511 which are housed in the county archive) attest to the church nave being used for many community events and private celebrations.
We hope that the building will be used for a range of activities including a venue for a youth club, film nights, quiz evenings, concerts etc. It will also be possible to close off the west end of the nave to create a space suitable for 50-60 people (with catering facilities available) and this will be available for private and community events as will the smaller rooms.
Why are so many rooms needed?
The rooms are important for two reasons: use by the church for meetings and Sunday school, and also as a resource for the community. At the moment we only have one room which is across the road in the Church Room. This does not help the children (or the leaders) feel included in the service nor does it support the idea of family worship. Having a wide range of children in a single class also makes it impossible for leaders to provide activities geared around a child’s age. The church needs a minimum of three rooms in the church itself to accommodate the range of age groups. There also needs to be a quiet room for use after the service where 2 or 3 people can meet to talk in private and pray through issues that may be troubling them.
The rooms will be in a variety of styles from formal meeting room to a teenage ‘snug’. We will also provide a crèche to allow parents to take very young children into an area where they children are free to be a bit noisier whilst the parents can still feel part of the service.
We also hope that the wider community will want to use the rooms for meetings and other functions (see earlier question)
Will work be carried out in the Chancel?
The Chancel will not be affected by any of the work which is currently being planned. It will continue to be used for occasional services in its current form and remain available as a place for private prayer.
What is the gallery for and does it need to be that size?
Historical records indicate that having a gallery at the west end of the church is not a new idea. Before the Victorian re-ordering of 1864-5 there was a gallery at the back of the church capable of seating over 100 people.
The proposed gallery has a number of functions. Firstly it provides for an enclosed space at the rear of the church for small gatherings and for serving refreshments after services and at events. It is important that this is separated from the main body of the church to allow drinks etc to be prepared or cleared away without disturbing the service. This would be ideal for having drinks immediately after a wedding or baptism or holding a wake following a funeral. Without this separation we would be unable to heat this area independently of the main body of the church which would be very wasteful both financially and environmentally.
In its own right, too, the gallery has other functions. For large services and events the gallery will provide much needed extra seating and it will also be an ideal place for singers and instrumentalists to supplement the musical forces in the nave below. Imagine, for example a soloist at a wedding or a funeral or trumpets during carols.
The gallery has been raised since the earlier designs to give a greater feeling of space in the room below.
What will we find under the floor?
We do not expect to find much under the floor. In 2016 an investigation was carried out under the supervision of the diocesan archaeologist which involved digging of a number of trial holes. This showed that when the floor was laid the vaults were filled in. At the same time the ledger stones (the engraved stone slabs in the floor) were re-positioned so that these now bear no relationship to the location of the original vaults.
What ever we find we will be working closely with archaeologists to ensure we understand the significance of anything found and ensure that it is fully documented.
What are you doing about car parking?
Car parking is a major issue for the whole village. We are actively working on a possible solution to provide parking for major church events but these discussions are still in progress.
How much will it cost and where will the money come from?
The proposals have been developed by an architect with a great deal of experience in working with churches and have been costed by a professional quantity surveyor. The project is projected to cost about £900,000 which includes the cost of restoring the mediaeval pews in the north and south aisles. Whenever work is carried out on a historic building one can never be sure of what will be found – especially when a floor is being lifted.
This is a large amount of money and we are looking at a number of sources of funding. In summary, the money will be raised from the generous giving of members of the congregation, from fundraising events, from individual donations from those who share our vision for the building and from a number of grant making bodies. If you would like to help we would love to hear from you.
What permission is needed and what is a Faculty?
A Faculty is a licence given to allow work to be carried out on church buildings, their contents and churchyards. Although many Church of England churches are 'listed', they are exempt from listed building control, except in certain unusual circumstances (where a church is not primarily in use for worship, or where total demolition is involved). Alteration and change is instead regulated by the faculty jurisdiction which is a formal process that is equivalent to listed building control but also considers aspects of faith and worship which may be outside the expertise of local authority building conservation officers. A key part of the process is the public notice period of 28 days during which detailed information of the proposals must be made available.
More information on the faculty process can be found here.
What consultation has been carried out?
The church has carried out a full consultation process which has been written up as a report. This report will be available to view during the faculty notice period.
Where can I see the plans?
The detailed plans and documentation is available to view in the Church Room in North End during the faculty notice period. The Church Room will be open from Monday 3rd July to Saturday 30th July at the following times.
Monday: 9am-12 noon
Thursday: 9am-12 noon
Friday: 9am-12 noon
And additionally, on Sunday 30th July 2pm-4pm
The documentation can also be viewed at the Diocesan Office, Bishop Woodford House, Barton Road, Ely, CB7 4DX by appointment via Diocesan Reception on 01353 652701
How long will the work take?
There will be a lot of preparatory work required and a lot of care will need to be taken to minimise the impact on the existing structure as well as documenting the work. This will all add to the timescales. We are currently estimating that the church will be unavailable for services for between 9-12 months.