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In 2010 we started the reconstruction over at Pockerley of St. Helen's Church, originally from Eston, which we saved from demolition in 1998. You can read more on the history of the church here.
This page will be regularly updated with pictures and all the latest updates on the reconstruction, with the most recent first.
The initial phase of building work is now complete. Although work will need to continue with the church interior and landscape, the construction of the church to this point has meant that the stone is safely conserved.
The best way to conserve building materials is to put them back together. This protects them from frost, rain, snow and all the other damaging elements they will be subject to if just left palletted in the open for any length of time.
There is one job just being finished and that is the removal of damaging metal rawl bolts that were used to hold metal sheeting in place over the windows when the church fell into disrepair. These metal bolts corrode and expand, which can cause stone to split. By carefully removing these bolts, this damage can be avoided or at the least reduced.
This autumn will hopefully see some work to the landscape taking place to begin to hedge, fence and tidy.
The majority of the scaffolding has been removed from the site, leaving a view of the church as a completed shell.
Despite the very wet weather over June, work has managed to progress well. Wet days have allowed work on the internal pointing to be carried out, and the remaining stones for the tower to be organised. This has meant that on the odd occasion that the weather has favoured us, work has been able to carry on at a good pace.
The last few weeks have seen the final half dozen courses of the tower laid, with the Thursday of last week being an emotional day with the team (including Reggie the dog!) jointly placing the final stone finial on the tower - nearly 14 months to the day of the first stone being laid.
Work is still being carried out on the tower roof prior to the scaffolding being lowered sometime this week. Once this is down the final slates can be placed on the nave roof and essentially this will then leave us with a complete watertight outer shell.
Work on the tower is progressing steadily, and with only around 8 courses of stone remaining it's hoped this will be up to full height in the very near future.
Meanwhile, the slating of the roof is nearly complete which will mean the interior of the church will be protected from the elements.
After a pleasantly mild winter, work on the reconstruction recommenced in February 2012. The main focus was to complete the roof construction to make the building watertight fearing a winter like last year's we wanted to reach this stage as quickly as possible. However, the appalling winter we were all expecting never really materialised and as a result we have been able to make reasonable progress outside of the really frosty days.
The main phases of the project since Christmas have centred around the lifting of the roof beams and trusses into place. These have all been cut and shaped by hand - each piece was individually made and then assembled on the ground to ensure correct fit. Then, they were disassembled and lifted into place, then reassembled in-situ.
Since then the roof lats have been placed and the roofers are now busily slating the church with reclaimed Westmorland slate. These slates have a wonderful character, and were often used to roof buildings like churches and are of an exceptional quality.
Progress has been impressive throughout December thanks to us experiencing largely mild weather conditions. The Chancel roof timbers are in place and protecting the interior from the elements, and plenty of progress has been made on the stonework elsewhere. Work will be temporarily called to a halt until sometime in the Spring due to the colder temperatures. Paul, who is overseeing much of the construction work on a day to day basis gave us a winter update via video which you can see here:
With the North East of England experiencing a pleasantly mild November (touch wood!), work has continued at a fast pace on the reconstruction. The second lift on the scaffolding went up in October, which has enabled a lot of significant work to be carried out.
The installation of the beams for the gallery which will overlook the nave are now firmly in place and the arch (with former in place) is coming along nicely too. Also on site are the curved doorway formers in place ready for stone to be added at a later date.
Weather permitting, work on the church will continue until shortly before Christmas before a winter break.
The Wooden arch former is now in place, and stonework on the arch has begun to take shape.
September also saw the appearance of 'Fish Man,' a carved stone character who had spent the last few hundred years facing inwards and was discovered upon deconstruction of the church in 1998. Fortunately, this meant he wasn't exposed to the elements and hasn't aged much at all! He has been returned to his original location in the church, but this time facing outwards and visible to everyone who visits the church.
Fish Man was possibly part of a carved corbel which is a supporting stone for a beam, for example, and then re-used in the church in later incarnations. There was quite a tradition for stonemasons carving strange and humorous characters, as well as some having biblical references.
Work is progressing very quickly with most of the stonework up to the next level of scaffold. Work on the Tower has begun and the next level of scaffold will be going up shortly.
The first of the scaffolding has gone up and work continues at a quick pace with some decorated stonework making an appearance in the build.
Good weather means the build has been progressing well over July. The foundations and lower levels of the church are now mostly complete, with work on reconstructing the vestry (which had been stolen from Eston) also underway.
Work on the tower plinth has started and work is progressing well in the recent dry weather we have had. Ground level will be halfway up the plinth stone you see in the pictures below.
Foundation stones on the church nave are complete and work has begun on the laying of the plinth stones - you can see Jim Rees next to the first. Material is being used to cover the stones and lime mortar incase the weather takes a turn for the worst.
Lime mortar behaves differently to cement mortar and is more susceptible to changes in the weather. Numbered stone is also visible on pallets - first two courses due to go on after the plinth is complete.
The majority of the nave foundation stone is in place with the tower base laid out with stone nearest to the camera. At the far end of the church work has begun on laying out the Chancel Stone. Around the church foundations can be seen various pallets of plinth stone.
The first of the foundation stones have been laid.
The area has been landscaped and a re-inforced concrete foundation plinth put in place. As of yesterday the stone masons have began to mark out the lines of the church on this foundation.
As well as the concrete foundation, the church will have a stone foundation layer, the stone for which is beginning to be taken to the site. All being well, the first foundation stones may be laid by the end of this week.