Church of St Michael and All Angels
Case study: Church Walk, Thorpe Satchville, Leicestershire LE14 2DF (East Midlands)
List entry number: 1061249
Background and history
The repair of this Leicestershire church relied on traditional skills and modern innovation. It also provided important opportunities for training and developing conservation techniques.
The church of St Michael, Thorpe Satchville, is a charming and simple late medieval building. It was extensively restored in the 19th century. A bellcote and north transept were added at this time. The church is set on a hill in pleasant rolling countryside.
The church is built of a light brown ironstone and creamy coloured limestone. It has a Swithland slate roof, a historic local material. It was listed at grade II in 1968.
In 2009 it was noted that the roof coverings were letting in water. They were thought to be at least 140 years old. Leaks had caused ceiling plaster to fall inside the church. In addition, there had been a long standing problem with structural movement.
Several conservation challenges were identified before repairs began. An interesting method of construction had been used. The slate covering and plaster ceiling below were bonded together. As slates were removed, this inevitably meant that a new plastered ceiling would be required. New Swithland slates are no longer available so a suitable replacement was needed. This would have to be a sympathetic close match.
Is it at risk?
The church is no longer at risk. It had been added to the Register in 2013. Repairs to the roofs and masonry began in the summer of 2014. These repairs are now complete. The building has been removed from the published Heritage at Risk Register for 2015.
What's the current situation?
The congregation began in earnest the enormous task of finding funds to cover the repairs. Several grants were secured from different sources and contributions were made by the local community. Fundraising included such diverse events as a treasure hunt, Easter hunt and 'Chocolate Bingo'.
This fascinating conservation project involved the use of 'hot lime' which was commonly used historically. This technique fell out of favour as superficially more convenient techniques were adopted. Nevertheless, working with hot lime has several benefits over standard practice. A demonstration was held in the churchyard using a dummy roof structure. This allowed the contractor to test the use of hot lime without compromising the building. A type of Welsh slate was hand-shaped on site to replicate existing Swithland slates. The suitability and appearance of this material was also tested before installation.
The project achieved much more than the return of this well-loved church into use. The chance to rediscover lost repair techniques and learn about new conservation solutions will assist conservation across the region.