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Spire at St Mary and All Saints

Spire at St Mary and All Saints

Conservation/Restoration Winner 2006

Location: Dunsfold, Surrey
Client/Owner: The Rector & Churchwardens, St Mary & All Saints Church
Architect: The John Deal Practice
Main Contractor/Builder: R P Harknett (steeplejacks)
Wood Species: English Oak

St. Mary & All Saints church dates from 12th/13th Centuries and is situated remote from the current village and is ‘a complete example’ of a remote village church with little alteration to the original fabric. The 15th Century timber Tower and Spire were reconstructed in the 19th Century and last re-shingled with Cedar shingles in 1966 that had curled badly and suffered extensive woodpecker damage.

The services of R P Harknett were engaged to strip and re-cover in 16inch (400) hand cleft English Oak shingles with a 4inch (100) gauge providing a triple lap throughout most of the surfaces, repeating the ‘dentil’ decoration on the Tower and retaining the existing Oak louvers with minor repairs. Mr Harknett makes his own shingles which are hand cleft at his workshop, bundled and brought to site. They are untreated and quickly adopt the silver grey appearance of natural Oak.  Mr Harknett’s work displays exceptional craftsmanship, being the oldest working steeplejack in the country.

During the works, extensive damage to the top of several rafters (ignored and covered in 1966) required considerable repair and ‘piercing-in’ incorporating a ply corset and repaired section of the centre post. The ‘cockerel’ weathervane was repaired and re-gilded before replacing and the whole of the capping renewed in Code 8 sand cast lead.  Lead flashings are painted with a bituminous paint or supplanted with a sacrifical strip of Oak to withstand the leaking acid from the new Oak, which persists for two to three years.