Access for inspection and maintenance purposes within the loft space above the Nave ceiling has never been ‘safe’ by today’s standards since the church was built in 1840.
Both in the days when the Nave ceiling was flat, and from 1903 when the barrel vaulting was introduced, it has been necessary to rely on board walks across the loft space.
These have had no handrails, and if one was unlucky enough to put a foot wrong, there were only half-inch thick plasterboard panels set in a matrix of joists to save one from falling twenty metres to the Nave floor below.
In the photo below, the board walk has been removed as unsafe.
Some of the plasterboard panels have been replaced because original ones were cracked and in danger of falling. Safe access for the contractor to do this was enabled by the use of fall arrest harnesses shackled to a fixed safety line – the latter is shown in the photo.
The Heritage Lottery Fund grant has provided us with the opportunity to rectify this unsafe access situation by decking out the Nave loft.
300mm x 50mm joists now span between strengthened roof trusses, 300mm thermal insulation has been laid between the joists, and 18mm tongued and grooved plywood has been fixed across the joists to provide a complete, insulated decking solution.
This will enable regular maintenance inspections to be made to check for roof leaks – which over the years have caused damage to roof timbers and decorations.