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St Nicolas' Renewal

The following article was first published in the September 1999 issue of the Prestbury Parish magazine

St. Nicolas’ Ceiling and Windows

During his sermon at St. Nicolas’ on 25th July 1999 Fr. Stephen invited the congregation to look heavenwards, which traditionally means UP. On this occasion however the reason was more prosaic than prophetic. The fabric committee had met with the architect earlier in the week and were keen to share their ideas with the congregation. What follows is a brief summary - what happens next depends on decisions by the PCC.


The ceiling is deteriorating, mainly due to condensation between the ceiling and the roof, there being no insulation and little ventilation. While not in immediate danger of collapse some remedial work will be required in the not too distant future.

The architect proposed replacing the current ceiling with one constructed from strips of wood, installed horizontally and running around the building following the existing roof line, with narrow risers between each strip (it was much easier to explain at the presentation when a demonstration piece was shown). The risers would be made of cork and the whole could then be "tuned" for much improved audio qualities by either drilling holes or fixing hard surfaces to these risers.

This method of construction is labour intensive, each strip being cut to size and shape on-site, and the preferred medium is English Oak, with a possible option of Ash. The architect’s estimate for this is £25,000 to include removal of the old ceiling, all construction work, insulation, ventilation improvements, some rewiring for lighting and scaffolding. The use of Ash would bring the price down to about £22,000 but the appearance begins to look like cheap softwood; an absolute minimum using man-made materials (e.g. aluminium) would be in the region of £17,500.


In case you have ever wondered, the baby bath often seen between choir and organ is not for some arcane baptismal ceremony but is located to catch water which frequently comes through the window. Although the other large window is in slightly better condition both are beginning to rot and need regular maintenance.

The architect has proposed removing all the frames and having windows made only of glass held together with claw-like fixings. The glass is very strong and has insulating properties which make it as good as double glazing. The sealer between the panes is guaranteed for 30 years. There would be no doors and ventilation would be at eaves level.

The estimate for this work is £10,000 (i.e. £5,000 per window). The architect invited us to consider including some artwork (akin to etching but using a printing process) which would identify the building very clearly as a Christian one. The cost of this artwork would depend on the artist and other factors but a figure in the region of £5,000 was suggested.


If this work is undertaken certain other aspects of the building must be considered - for instance the remaining lighting will look dated, the roof will need overhauling, bargeboards will need painting or replacing and the interior will benefit from redecoration.

Work could begin within a month of permission being given and would take 6-8 weeks, though the church would not necessarily be out of action all that time.

Next Steps

Proposals will need to be put to the PCC. If they agree then discussions with the Local Authority and the Diocesan Advisory Committee must be undertaken. It is hoped that the work will be VAT free, but this is not yet certain. An additional 11% for architect’s fees has to be added to the costs and it must be emphasised that the above are architect’s estimates.

Any questions?

Geoff Shaw


Follow how the work progressed at various stages:

Up ] [ September 1999 ] 23 June 2002 ] 7 July 2002 ] 11 August 2002 ] 8 September 2002 ] 15 September 2002 ] 29 September 2002 ] 10 November 2002 ] 22 December 2002 ] 18 January 2003 ] 5 February 2003 ] 23 March 2003 ] 30 March 2003 ] In the Hall ] Back in Church ]


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The Parochial Church Council of the Ecclesiastical Parish of St Mary and St Nicolas Prestbury Cheltenham - Registered Charity No 1130933

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Last modified: 06 June 2015