BACKGROUND TO THE ROOF RESTORATION
General Pictures of Church Condition
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Our problems began In January 2017, when, after particularly strong winds and heavy rain, part of the chancel ceiling above the altar collapsed. The rest of the ceiling was checked and evidence of water damage was found in several areas. All the damaged plaster and lathes were removed and the ceiling stabilised, so the life of the church could continue.
Investigations to the roof showed that water was coming in, as the mortar, holding the Horsham stone slabs in place, was crumbling and letting in water. On the advice of the church architect, the whole church was then checked for further weathering and signs of water ingress. The architect's report from the full investigation gave a very worrying picture. All areas of the church roof showed signs of the Horsham slab mortar breaking down as well as significant weathering to the stone work of the walls and the bell tower.
The breakdown of the Horsham slab mortar is due to the use of Porchester cement, rather than the original lime mortar, when the roof was repaired in the 1930’s. The cement is rigid and does not flex, like lime mortar, so as the slabs moved over the years, it crumbled and fell out. The local sandstone is a soft stone which is easily weathered. This was aggravated by the inadequate guttering put up during the 1930’s repairs. The guttering was not deep enough, so water splashed out and ran down the vulnerable walls accelerating the weathering. The report found signs of water ingress in the south transept and the nave, especially where it joined the central crossing.
We were advised that the roof needed further investigation from the inside of the church to see how much damage there was to the ceiling plaster and lathes as well as to the structural beams for the roof. The church had an infestation of Death Watch Beetle in the 1990’s and although the wood was treated and infected wood removed, there is the risk that the damp conditions could have activated the beetle again. However, we were advised that repairs to the inside of the church were not sensible until the church roof and walls were made weatherproof once again.