Ward & Co - established 1995St Mary the Virgin
St Mary the VirginSt Mary the VirginSt Mary the Virgin

Project summary

• Grade I Listed church

• Repair of complex roof truss

• New roof in Welsh slate

• Repaired using SPAB principles

• Reinstatement of masonry

• Improved rainwater disposal

• Useable for services once more

St Mary the Virgin: Edlesborough, Buckinghamshire

St Mary the Virgin is a large church on a site where there has been a place of Christian worship since the 13th Century. Its masonry structure is primarily from ‘clunch’, a form of local building stone chemically similar to limestone but much softer. To address the decayed and weathered masonry, Victorian contractors cut back many of the masonry surfaces crucial to the building’s survival and overlaid them with renders. These and other mortar repairs had reached the end of their useful lives.

The church is built on top of a steeply sided mound on the edge of Edlesborough village, Buckinghamshire, 5 miles South East of Leighton Buzzard. The church is owned by the Churches Conservation Trust and remains consecrated even though it is not used for regular Services.

Ward and Co were the main Contractor for a project that began in April 2005 to restore the structure of the Chancel’s complex timber truss roof, re-cover the roof with Welsh slate and reinstate much of the masonry, including the Chancel’s substantial buttresses. Ward and Co’s Buckinghamshire based tradesmen carried out the works to the Chancel roof, other internal repairs and improvements to the rainwater disposal arrangements.

Limited and steep access to the church on all sides increased the challenges with moving large timber baulks and replacement building stones weighing up to 200 kgs onto the site and into position. Sizeable temporary scaffolding structures facilitated the movement of materials while a temporary roof and fully sheeted access scaffolding provided necessary protections to the building works and the contractors’ workforce, on the exposed site.

On removal of the Victorian renders it became apparent that the masonry repairs and restorations required were far more extensive than anticipated. Even so (and in parallel with the reinstatement of the roof structures) as much of the historic fabric as possible has been retained. The random width roof slates that were unserviceable have been replaced with similar sized slates from Penrhyn Quarry. Because of the sizes of the existing slates and their mixture of dressed and sawn edges, the replacements were bespoke.

The project was completed in March 2006. Both the Client and the historic buildings consultants were impressed by the standards of workmanship and finishes and the dedication and commitment of the construction teams who addressed challenges with the site and worsening weather.