St.Martin of Tours,
© 2024 Chelsfield PCC
Charity Number 1131573
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St Martin’s Church and its spire
St Martin’s Church, in the village of Chelsfield, was built in the 12th Century. The tower and spire were added around 100 years later so the spire, in particular, has been a feature of our village for around 800 years and remains a landmark that can be seen for miles.
Below the spire, during the 17th Century the bell chamber saw the installation of the first full ring of bells. Five bells were installed in 1672 and are still rung today, over 350 years later.
The construction of the spire is such that there is an internal wooden framework that supports wooden planks which, in turn, carry the wooden shingles that we see from outside. The wooden shingles are the equivalent to the terracotta or slate roof tiles on houses, but much lighter.
The current problem
Unfortunately, the shingles have a limited lifespan. Those at St Martin’s have had their life shortened by the creation of holes by the parakeets that have now invaded our area. Rather than replace the existing cedar shingles with the same type, we plan to use much harder oak or chestnut.
The sheer number of holes is clearly shown in these photographs
and this is just one side of the spire.
The holes mean that the spire is no longer watertight. The ingress of water, and the possibility of vermin accessing the internal framework, have created a situation where remedial action is now essential to protect the structural integrity of the spire and to prevent any damage to the bells.
The inside of the spire should be in darkness – but clearly isn’t, due to the light coming in through the holes. And where light goes water can follow.
The work to replace the shingles will involve both erecting scaffolding around the tower and spire and employing a specialist builder.
Given the significant cost of the scaffolding the opportunity will be taken to undertake some stonework repairs to the tower. The costs involved are modest in comparison to the work on the spire.
There are also sections of stonework that need repair.
Our architect has been working on a detailed specification of the work to be carried out, to form the basis of tenders to obtain quotes. The latest estimate (August 2023), indicates that the Church needs to raise a significant amount of money to undertake this work and we need to raise this before work can commence.
As is the case with many custodians of historic buildings, St Martin’s simply doesn’t have reserves to cover this and needs to look to its members, supporters and the wider community (of all faiths and none) to raise the funds.
We are very fortunate that a charity has agreed to ‘match fund’ donations up to £75,000. So any donation you make will be doubled. Additionally, Gift Aid allows qualifying donations to be increased by a further 25%.
We very much hope you’ll feel able to support this appeal and will be happy to discuss with you how we plan to raise the amount needed and how you can personally participate.
We need to ensure the church is made watertight and the historic bells are protected, so that our building can continue to be a centre of active worship in Chelsfield,
and a resource where we can work in partnership with local groups and organisations to meet the needs of the community both now and well into the future.
Our Auction of Promises, which was a sell out event, was held on 17th February and raised over £5k towards the Spire Appeal Project. Thank you to all of our lot donors and our bidders.
We still have a way to go to reach our current target of £175k that we need to raise, here is a document outlining various methods for donating to the appeal. (Pdf)
Donate Now’ on line using your debit or credit card. (‘Givealittle’ secure website).