of the Villages

The bellcote at St Margaret’s Church, Hunningham

As you can see from the photograph, work has finally been completed on the bellcote at Hunningham Church.

The saga of the bellcote started in August 2022 with the five yearly inspection of the church by the Diocesan Architect. This inspection noted that there were at least four weatherboards on the south and east slopes that needed replacement. However, when scaffolding was put in place at the beginning of 2023, a closer inspection revealed that a large number of the horizontal planks in tanalised soft wood were rotten beyond repair.

M&G Roofing, a trusted local contractor, who had re-built the Bell Tower in Compton Verney the previous year, were instructed initially to remove all the cladding for a proper inspection of the structure itself under the guidance of Stephen Evans, who is responsible for the fabric of each of the four churches in The Offchurch Group, and our appointed Architect Stephen Oliver.

It transpired that the whole framework of the tower had dropped on the east side , and was lacking  proper support from the very substantial medieval oak framework. The Architect was so concerned that we sought the advice of a Structural Engineer.

Due to the effect of rainwater leakage over many years, the Structural Engineer advised serious repair work, splicing seasoned oak into the defective and damaged sections. He was satisfied that the damage could be repaired for long term preservation. Instead of the previous tanalised softwood external boarding, kiln dried oak boarding was specified, after first netting the whole internal framework in stainless steel mesh and fitting lead soakers to all corners. This is one of the reasons it was all so expensive.

The work was finished at the end of February at a cost, in total, approaching £40,000, including Architect’s fees. That we are able to pay this money is due solely to the villagers of Hunningham, plus some of our earlier churchgoers, who, in the course of the past seven years have helped to raise funds for an emergency of this nature.

We are indebted to Stephen Evans, who coordinated the work procedures from beginning to end, and who, via his contacts in the trade, was able to save us £5,000 on the cost of the seasoned oak timber.

The end result is impressive!

Paddy Taylor