2012-2017: The journey for re-ordering of St John the Baptist Church, Middleton Scriven
A. FUNDING FOR THIS PROJECT- where did it come from?
1. THE END OF AN ERA AT DEUXHILL
· Deuxhill Village School, built in the mid-19th century between the sites of Deuxhill Chapel and Horsford Mill on the main Bridgnorth to Cleobury Mortimer road, was closed in the early 1960’s.
· Soon afterwards it was sold to a local group of people who formed themselves into the Trustees and committee of the Deuxhill Village Hall Charitable Trust.
· The aim of the Trust was to retain the old school building and use it as a local Village Hall for the benefit and use of residents of the 3 adjacent parishes: Middleton Scriven, Billingsley and Glazeley-with –Deuxhill
· Throughout the 60’s, 70’s, 80’s and to a lesser extent 90’s, there was plenty of activity at the Village Hall with a cricket team, youth club and whist drive as well as a venue for private functions, other groups and the Parish council regular meetings, plus being a Polling Station at election time.
· By the time the 21st century was established, the Village Hall had fallen into deep decline. (Potentially the effects of television and cheap and easy access to places offering more sophisticated amusement resulted in the clubs ceasing and numbers dwindling at the Whist Drive club.) Running costs were exceeding revenue. By 2012 it had become quite clear that the building was no longer viable as a Village Hall, was starting to deteriorate and was no longer fit for purpose.
2. DECISION TIME:
· On 11 December 2012 a public meeting was held and members of the local public invited to express their views, opinions and suggestions for the buildings future.
· It was agreed that the only sensible course was to declare the Village Hall redundant, sell the building and dispose of the proceeds of sale in accordance with title deeds (1964 from Ministry of Education).
· The title deeds declared that the proceeds should be used for the benefit of the residents of the 3 parishes mentioned.
· 18 June 2013-Sale by auction: proceeds distributed as follows:
o £5806: Chetton Village Hall to refurbish its kitchen
o £500: Four Parishes Heritage Group- further historical research within 3 parishes
o Balance equally divided between the 3 parishes via their parish churches
£33,880 for each parish to be used for the benefit of the residents of each parish.
B: PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE:
1. THE NEED FOR CHANGE in St John the Baptist, Middleton Scriven
· Church services have been once a month for many years together with an Easter, Harvest festival and Christmas services. The monthly services have always been attended by a very small number of local people. Baptisms, Weddings and funerals have been rare.
· The building has in recent years been used for an increasing number of non religious purposes, with good numbers attending monthly Coffee mornings (started in Feb 2003), concerts, talks, presentations and exhibitions.
· It was felt that to make the building more user friendly for these types of activities would be of significant benefit to the local community.
2. THE PLANS:
· Proposals were put forward to use the newly acquired funds (together with existing funds in the Fabric fund) to install a fully functional kitchen, storage area and to create a large open area in the Nave, plus providing outside toilet facilities .
· Following a community survey, and a very lengthy period of consultation (Dec 2013-October 2016) with the Church Commissioners (Diocesan Advisory Committee) and their architects, who advised what could and could not be done and how any improvement works should be carried out, the required Faculty was granted and work started in October 2016.
· The PCC were also determined that the old Victorian pews, which were not only extremely uncomfortable, but totally immoveable, should be removed to provide the desired versatile and user friendly open space in the Nave.
C: THE WORK
1. DOWN TO EARTH:
· The first task, after removal of the very damp and rotting carpet, was the removal of all pews from the Nave, most were then sold to provide additional funding .
· The pews had been attached to the timber flooring and the aisle was covered with encaustic tiles.
· Once removed, it became clear that the flooring and floor joists were in a dangerous condition, having been infected or currently being infected with woodworm, dry rot and wet rot.
· Work had to cease, the church architect was called in and the work had to await another decision on how to remedy the problem and proceed with the re-ordering work.
· The architect decided that removal of all traces of the timber floor and also the tiled areas, which were laid on a rubble base, clear the whole floor area down to the natural subsoil and replace the entire area with a concrete floor.
· The natural ground level was 18 inches below floor level. Clearing the nave of its floor involved the use of a mini digger. (This was fortunately just half an inch narrower that the church doorway, otherwise many more hours of hard labour would have been needed to remove the many tons of rubble and debris.)
· The new floor was built in layers: A hardcore base blinded with sand, followed by a damp-proof membrane and a thick layer of concrete. (Concrete was delivered ready mixed and pumped in through the door and leveled as it was poured). Finally an insulating layer was put on top, followed by the final engineered timber floor.
· The new floor required a “ breathing gap” between it and the stone walls, and a new boxed skirting was installed.
· The kitchen was installed, water supply and drainage added, and a storage cupboard created (for tables and chairs etc. to be stored)
· The church was repainted, and all electrical circuits updated. The previous light fittings and heaters were removed as they were determined as unsafe.
· Outside, a permanent base for a portaloo was created plus a new path access to it. The main path was re-laid.
· The work took from October 2016 – June 2017 to complete. ( All Seasons Property maintenance undertook the work.)
2. NEW EVIDENCE- OLD CHURCH
· Clearance of the old floor reveled very little evidence of archaeological interest. (Only a few pieces of very old roof tiles, a Victorian halfpenny and two Tudor bricks which could have come from anywhere.)
· At east end of Nave, a large stone block (approximately 2ft square) was discovered on the left hand side of the Chancel arch, sitting on the natural ground surface, its top flush with the tiled floor. It had been hidden from view due to the pulpit being on top of it.
· This block has a hole down the centre, about 2 inches diameter. The hole emerged at the north side of the block and had in the past been connected to several pieces of land drain which led under the north wall of the building. It was concluded that this had been the base of the Font, which itself has a central drain hole.
· The Font has occupied several positions to the rear of the Nave in recent times, but this evidence clearly confirms that it was originally as the front of the Nave.
· The Re-ordering plans had relocated the Font to the right hand side at the front, but with this new evidence it became appropriate to locate the Font back to its original site on the left.
· By studying the pulpit looking at the position of the entrance gap and the small seat inside it (enabling its user to face the congregation when seated) it became clear that the Pulpit was originally designed to stand on the right of the Nave.
· The re-ordered church now displays the Font and Pulpit in their correct and original positions.
3. WHERE WAS THE ORIGINAL CHURCH ?
· The substance of the current church building dates from extensive construction work in the mid 1840s, by the then rector, Rev Dr Thomas Rowley. It replaces a previous church. Prior to that, the records are unclear as to the size, construction or even the precise location of earlier churches.
· It has long been surmised that prior to the construction of the present building on its present site an earlier building occupied a different position, potentially in the paddock on the opposite side of the lane where in stand a pair of very ancient Yew trees (known as the Twins)- trees typically found in English church yards.
· There is no evidence to support this theory. A team of archaeologists from Birmingham? University approximately 25 hears ago carried out an investigation but found no evidence.
4. BUILDING ON PAST SUCCESSES
· Now we have evidence that the present building may well have been created by the enlargement of an earlier building, simply by extending the footprint of the original building.
a. The doorway from the outside, ignoring the 19th century addition of a porch,shows evidence a semi-circular archway which is no longer appropriate to the present doorway. The arch is a different style to the window arches.
b. 2nd external feature which lends credence to the assumption that the Nave has been extended to the west, is the break in the wall-plate (the timber beam which sits on the top of the walls of the north and south sides and supports the roof timbers). This break is at the same point on both walls, about 12 feet from the west end of the Nave.
4. KICKING UP A DUST:
· The dust created by removing the floor settled on everything, including the walls. All tiny imperfections in the plasterwork, normally undetectable, were picked out in lines of dust, providing clues to some of the alterations and modifications that had taken place- due to minor differences in surface levels.
· These shadowy marks revealed the outlines of blocked up windows on both the north and south walls of the church, windows which were wider than the present day windows.
· There was an outline of an arch over the door which coincided accurately with the stone arch visible on the outside wall.
· A vertical line on both side walls was seen at the same point as the breaks in the wall plates outside, conclusively confirming that the original building stopped at this point.
· If these assumptions are correct, parts of the building are much older than the present day building which is known to have been constructed in 1840’s.
· In Summary: the works in the 1840’s included:
o Church was extended westwards
o New bell tower added
o Stained glass window erected in west wall
o Old windows were blocked up and new ones created
o Doorway was remodeled and a porch constructed
o New floor built with oak floorboards supporting new pews
o Tiled aisle installed
D: ONE DOOR CLOSES BUT ANOTHER ONE OPENS
Proceeds from the sale of the Deuxhill Village Hall enabled St John the Baptist Church in Middleton Scriven to re-order and update the building so that it could function as a multi-purpose building able to cater for not only traditional worship but also social and community activities more appropriate to the 21st century way of life.
Immovable and uncompromising (as well as extremely uncomfortable) pews have been taken out and replaced with modern (stackable) chairs. A kitchen and toilet facilities have ben made available. The old Harmonium has been replaced by a modern electronic piano/organ (kindly donated by a villager) and there is a useful storeroom so that tables and chairs can be tidily stored out of sight.
The design of the interior took account of the fact that the very attractive and colourful west window provided a pleasing focal point at the rear of the Nave, and that the kitchen and store room designed to flank this window and provide a balanced look to the space. The font, restored to its original position, is now taking a featured place to be admired and appreciated by all audiences.
The parishioners of Middleton Scriven now look forward to many more years of useful service from a building which has been changed, probably many times, over the centuries to cater for different uses, ideas and populations.
It is entering an era where secular use will quite probably exceed non-secular use but nevertheless be appreciated for its new found usefulness, versatility and architectural merits for many years to come. All thanks to the prudent use of the funds which came from an unexpected and unlikely source!
LEST WE FORGET
· Rescued from the Deuxhill Village hall/ Deuxhill School is an oak display board which carries the roll of honour for those local men who took part in the Great War of 1914-1918. Unusually this lists not only men who lost their lives but also those who survived the war; together with a list of scholars who attended the Village School around the turn of the 19th to 20th century.
· This honour board has been re- erected on the wall of the church. It is interesting to note that many names are still recognizable as being local families still in the surrounding area today .
A H Johnson August 2017