Work to rectify the problems associated with the failure of the redecoration of the Nave carried out in 2014 continues. Following the Consistory Court held in Pettistree Church on 29th September 2017 when the architect was deemed to have caused the problem, the PCC were instructed to prepare cost estimates for the restoration work required and, when costs are agreed, to ensure that the nave is restored to the state it should have been in if the original specification had been followed. During a series of preliminary wall investigations to inform the preparation of a detailed specification of works a small section of wall painting was uncovered. After seeking further guidance from the Chancellor, a subsequent set of directions were received from the Diocesan Registrar on 10th April 2019 stating that any additional costs associated with specific investigation or conservation of wall paintings are not subject to the original Consistory Court ruling, and therefore the PCC would need to fund any additional related costs.
Completed specialist reports from Dr Andrea Kirkham and Dr Carrington with detailed analysis and expert recommendations were completed in early 2020. An updated specification was then used as the basis for a new tender exercise.
During the early part of 2021 a preferred contractor was selected, and a revised costed proposal was completed in April 2021. The estimated cost to comply with the Consistory Court Restoration Order judgement from October 2017 was circa £175k. However, the work will require the church nave to be closed for a 3-5 year period, during which time only the chancel will be available for church services. This will severely restrict the use of the church over an extended period and the church would effectively be unusable for weddings, funerals and festival services. The PCC are extremely concerned about the long-term impact that this could have on the viability of the church. An alternative approach to meeting the intent of the nave restoration order could be to strip all the existing plaster from the walls and then re-render and apply limewash. This could be cost neutral, but much quicker without the need for long-term closure of the nave.
These options were shared with the Diocesan Registrar, Archdeacon and DAC in April 2021, with a request for further guidance on compliance with original court judgement, noting the impact that re-rendering would have on potential wall paintings. Following a site visit, the DAC expressed their sympathy for the situation the church is in and expressed their concerns about the negative impacts of a long-term closure of the nave. The DAC agreed to refer the matter to the Chancellor to seek further Directions on compliance with original court judgment.
In late March 2022 the new-in-post Chancellor, together with Archdeacon Jeanette, the DAC Chairman, Edmund Harris (DAC Secretary) and James Hall (Diocesan Registrar) made a site visit to Pettistree church. At the recommendation of the Chancellor, a barrister was asked to provide a legal opinion as to whether Stephen Claydon could be liable for costs related to wall paintings and conservation, or whether they are too disconnected from the original issue. The barrister’s conclusion was that such costs cannot be claimed from Stephen Claydon.
Before the Chancellor can make a further decision on next steps, there is a statutory requirement to seek views from the Church Buildings Council, Heritage England and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. To initiate this process the PCC was asked to submit a Faculty application together with a Statement of Needs to request permission to start the work. The Statement of Needs presented two options. The first being the removal of Zinsser paint from the Nave walls together with wall monitoring over a five-year (worst case) period. The second option being to remove the contaminated Nave plasterwork and then replaster and repaint. The second option was strongly recommended by the PCC, as a pragmatic way forwards to preserve the active life of the church community.
The DAC considered the Faculty request at their October meeting. The Committee was sympathetic to the PCC request, but before further consideration the DAC had to complete the consultation exercise with HE, SPAB and CBC. It was hoped that consultation responses would be returned to enable the DAC to discuss the matter at their December meeting. However, delayed consultee responses led to this being delayed, first to the February and then the April 2023 DAC meeting.
At year end the PCC continued to await progress on this next step. It is hoped that the Chancellor will be able to provide support in early 2023.
As a consequence of the need to complete the nave restoration, the George III Coat of Arms, which was beautifully restored during 2014 has not been returned to the church and it remains in safe storage at a local farm.