The Friends of Bromham and Sandy Lane Churches was set up as a Trust in March 1987 and aims to assist in the maintenance, improvement and restoration of the buildings, grounds, fittings, furnishings and amenities of the churches of St Nicholas, Bromham and St Mary the Virgin and St Nicholas, Sandy Lane, Wiltshire. A list of all projects completed since 1987 is added to the bottom of this page. The Friends also promote the use of both churches as centres of Christian worship and appropriate cultural activities for the benefit of the local community. The Friends raise funds for the church throughout the year and produce an occasional newsletter for members. After many years of discussion and planning by the Parochial Church Council (PCC) and the Friends, the project to repair and conserve the Bayntun Chapel ceiling and roof, together with associated works, has been completed. Here is a rundown of the final successful project.THE BAYNTUN (CHANTRY) CHAPEL, ST NICHOLAS CHURCH, BROMHAM
In 2004 John and Carol Drew retired and made a commitment on behalf of the PCC and Friends to raise the money necessary to conserve the chapels ceiling and restore the Victorian roof and gutters above (a sum at that time in the order of £291,000). An application to English Heritage (EH) / Heritage Lottery Fund in July 2004 proved successful and we were offered a two stage grant just before Christmas 2004. In accordance with the terms of the EH grant, Stage One required a full investigation into the chapels structural and cosmetic state, its environment, history and details of previous works carried out. At the time of the Stage One grant offer, the PCC formally appointed John Drew as its project manager. At the end of this investigation phase, for which a strict period of one calendar year was allowed, the PCC were to provide EH with a detailed report on the works required to conserve the chapel ceiling and repair the Victorian roof with costs and timescales for the completion of the proposed works.
In March 2005 the investigations began by installing scaffolding in the interior of the chapel. Later, under the direction of the churchs architect and the PCCs project manager, specialists in the conservation of polychromy and medieval timberworks, an environmentalist, a structural engineer and a documentary historian worked on the project throughout the remainder of 2005. During the reviews of progress with EH there was some doubt cast over the originality of the ceilings polychromy. As the PCC were adamant that the ceiling was original, they employed a recognised specialist in the analysis of medieval pigments. Samples of the medieval paint from the chapel ceiling were analysed at the University of Newcastle and were found to be completely original with no evidence of overpainting.
During the year taken to carry out the investigations and produce reports on the chapels ceiling and roof, applications were made to a range of trusts for additional funding, as the EH funding would only cover some 50% of the cost of the proposed works which were estimated at £291,000. In addition, it was clear that we needed to raise funds locally. By mid 2005 and early 2006 the funds were beginning to mount up, with trusts offering grants and local people being most generous towards the project. Substantial financial support was also received from a few former residents of the village. The Friends Committee organised an intensive programme of events to further supplement the required income.
At the final Stage One review meeting with EH, it became clear that the ceiling of the Bayntun Chapel was of considerable national and historical significance and a further two months were allowed to carry out further specific investigations. By the first week of February 2006 all reports had been finalised and were delivered to EH at Bristol. The reports and drawings which came out of the 14 month long investigation were the equivalent of 15 reams of paper (7,500 sheets), in addition to which there were dozens of drawings and photographs. In order for the PCC to obtain the necessary Faculty (planning permission from the Diocese) for the actual works, a further raft of reports were taken to Salisbury, again with dozens of drawings and photographs.
At the end of April 2006 the PCC was offered £157,000 towards costs of £307,032 including VAT to conserve the ceiling and restore the Victorian roofs of the chapel/transept and associated gutters and downpipes. A condition of the grant was that a temporary room should be built above the scaffolding to enclose the roof and ceiling, so that there would be as few changes as possible to the environment in the chapel during the time the works were being carried out. Hence the tin shed which became a feature of the village for some 9 months.
A survey of the upper ceiling revealed some infestation from furniture and deathwatch beetle Also evident was some weakness in a couple of the joints in the intermediate purlins but of most concern was the condition of the wooden wallplates on the north and south sides of the ceiling which showed evidence of both decay and compression. In order to gain access to the rear of the south wallplate, the infill below the south gutter had to be removed. During the process of removal a layer of earth was discovered containing human bone fragments and items from the Victorian building works, the earth having clearly come from the churchyard. Also found in the infill were items of carved stone from a missing pinnacle and the complete cap of a gargoyle with water spout, all of which are to be catalogued and put on display. Once the south wallplate was completely revealed, the decay in the timber was arrested by using a special resin to stabilise and harden the timber to improve its load bearing capabilities. The areas of infestation were treated and the suspect joints reinforced with new oak.
Below the ceiling in the chapel there are six carved and decorated arched braces standing on decorative corbels which were found to be bearing a great deal of the weight of the ceiling. In order to take the weight off the arched braces, large stainless steel brackets were constructed and bolted to the main support beams of the ceiling so that the weight of the roof was once again imposed on the walls of the chapel. Also some 600 screws and nails, both medieval and Victorian, which had seriously corroded, had to be removed from the decorative ceiling to prevent future damage. By late September the works to the medieval timbers of the chapel ceiling were complete and work began on rebuilding the roof above the ceiling. During the course of re-constructing the Victorian roof, timbers were strengthened to prevent the new roof sagging and resting on the ceiling below, causing the medieval ceiling undue strain. During work to replace the transept roof, defects in the major load bearing timbers were discovered and steel joists were inserted alongside the original timbers to provide the necessary support for the new roof.
In closing this article, the Friends Committee thank everyone who has supported and worked on this important project which has secured the chapel and indeed the church for future generations.
Donations from any Bayntun families, or descendants of those buried in the chapel, or others, would be very welcome.
Laurence Keen, the archaeologist commissioned by the Friends in 2003 to produce an assessment of the Chapel, states in his report that "The Chantry Chapel is an exceptional example of the fifteenth century. It combines a superb architectural context for an important series of monuments, displayed in a chapel with a roof of the highest quality, against an heraldic scheme of decoration to be seen on the roof, in the glass and on the interior and exterior architecture. The totality of the founders' scheme makes the chapel a building which is without parallel in Wiltshire, or in the country as a whole."In 1485 a licence was granted to Sir Roger Tocotes and Sir Richard Beauchamp (Lord St. Amand) and as a result, the Chantry Chapel of the Blessed Virgin Mary was added onto the south side of the chancel, at the Church of St. Nicholas in Bromham. This beautiful chapel retains its original ceiling, window glass, tombs and other features, which is undoubtedly the finest in the country.
The Chapel was completed by 1491 and has survived almost in its entirety. The armorial decoration on its beautiful, painted, oak panelled ceiling; in its window glass; on its memorials and other decoration inside and out remain to commemorate the families of the founders, as well as St George and the royal family. That it has survived, avoiding the destruction that befell other chantry chapels during the reign of Henry VIII and the reformation, and the destruction wrought by Cromwell’s anti-royalist troops in the local area, is rare and makes the chapel nationally important.
The ceiling of the Chantry Chapel is especially important and contains one of the largest areas of original, mediaeval polychrome decoration to survive in the country. It is exceptional in that 25 of its 32 panels have never been overpainted. It is extremely rare to find original 15th century paint that has survived without being repainted or varnished, especially over such a large area. Its survival is probably due partly to it being 'tucked away' in a small village church and to the recognition of its importance, certainly for the last 200 years. The conserving properties of grime and of spiders' webs have also been important!
The original paint and gilding of the mediaeval, oak panelled ceiling are deteriorating badly. The replacement roof over the Chapel, constructed in late Victorian times, has sagged and is resting on the mediaeval painted ceiling beneath, causing cracking and movement of timbers. There have been problems caused by rainwater and deathwatch beetle infestation over the years. There is a great risk of further and perhaps more substantial loss of historic fabric if the situation is not stabilised.
At the time the main contract works were being undertaken, it was decided to have the south face of the stone tiled roof of the chancel stripped and relaid to cure the long term ingress of water. Also new gutters, water chutes and downpipes were provided all around the church to prevent a build up of water on the roof during times of severe storms. The Friends contributed financially to these works.
Other works were carried out by members of the Friends during the project and included:-
Cleaning the interior chapel walls.
Re-fixing the loose iron wall brackets.
Removing the old metal mesh basket containing the gauntlets.
Cleaning the stained glass internally and externally.
The removal and renovation of the protective window grilles on the south west window. Some new grilles were made by the Salisbury Cathedral workshops.
Cleaning and decorating of the external wrought iron window bars of the chapel and transept windows.
The cleaning and decoration of the tie bar plates on the transept south wall and those on the tower.
The re-decoration of the south and east clock faces.
Rewiring of the Bayntun chapel and provision of new low energy UV compliant lighting.
FUTURE FUND RAISING
Our thoughts now turn to future projects in which the Friends will be involved both practically and assisting the PCC with funding, these include, with estimated costs including VAT and dates in brackets:-
Re-decoration of the interior of the church including the entrance porch and toilet. (£10,300 by the end of June 2007)
The stabilisation of the south east pinnacle at the base of the spire. (£3,260 by end of September 2007)
The stripping and relaying of the north slope of the stone tiled roof of the chancel. (£14,400 in next 3 -5 years)
The replacement of the lead gutters to the north of the nave and at the base of the spire. (£8,440 in next 3 - 5 years)
PROJECTS COMPLETED SINCE 1987
Projects refer to the Parish Church unless otherwise stated. The bells were removed, restored and re-hung at a cost of £16,000 paid for by a generous donation to the Friends. Completion August 1990.
A contribution was made towards the costs of re-thatching and repairs to the timbers of Sandy Lane Church roof. This an unusual church, being the only wooden church with a thatched roof in England.
A survey of the Chantry Chapel roof and ceiling took place in 1992 and a small sample of conservation work was done on one ceiling panel.
In 1994 repairs were made to the church wall.
In 1996 work was done on gutters and downpipes adjacent to the porch room.
The porch room was redecorated.
A contribution was made to the cost of replacing the outside lights.
The old tower door was replaced.
In 1997 window mesh was fixed over the outside of the east window.
In 1999 similar work was done over the west window with the Friends contributing £1,500 towards the cost.
New pew cushions were bought.
In 2002 and 2003 new lighting and wiring was installed in the parish church.
In 2003 new cupboards were provided for the choir vestry and Sunday School room.
The old wooden occasional chairs were replaced in 2003.
New flower pedestals were purchased using a bequest to the Friends.
An archaeological assessment of the Chantry Chapel was commissioned in 2003.
In the past 18 months in the parish church more new electrical wiring has been installed, the board flooring by the south aisle re-varnished and the flooring beneath the organ replac.