Uni students visit New Brighton church 2015

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undefinedStudents from Liverpool University's School of Architecture had a rare opportunity to get up close with a major restoration project. St James' church in New Brighton is midway through the reconstruction of its spire, which at 172 feet is the tallest in Wirral.

Parish officials thought this offered a chance for architecture students to get some hands-on experience of restoration work and to hear from experts involved. 

Richard Wilberforce, chair of the St James’ Restoration Committee, said: “We were delighted when the university accepted our invitation. This is a valuable learning resource which will only be available for a few months, and we want the next generation of architects to benefit from it.”

The spire of St James’ is currently being taken down stone by stone as part of a programme to restore it and make it safe.  It has suffered much storm damage during its 160 year life, and had been placed on English Heritage’s ‘at risk’ register.  Once dismantled, old damaged stones and corroded metal reinforcement will be discarded, and the spire rebuilt using new stone and modern reinforcement.

The students were able to see at close hand the damage that such structures can experience – and the techniques and materials involved in overcoming these problems.  And they heard from conservation architect Adrian Pearson of Lloyd Evans Prichard, and from head stonemason Carl Haines of Mather and Ellis. 

Mr Pearson has led many restoration projects on churches and Mr Haines has experience as a stonemason at Westminster Abbey.

At the end of the two-hour session, Richard Wilberforce said: “We are really pleased that we took the initiative to involve the architecture students.  The feedback was so positive that we have invited more groups in the coming weeks.”

St James’ is the parish church of New Brighton.  It was designed by the eminent Victorian architect Sir George Gilbert Scott, and opened in 1856. The cost of the restoration will be more than £400,000. A Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £250,000 has been a great help and local fundraising continues. Work started in August and is due to be completed by the end of February 2016.

For more details phone Richard Wilberforce on 07535 661318 or email richwen@btinternet.com

TOP picture - Architect Adrian Pearson (right) showing damaged stonework to students

BELOW - work now underway on the spire of St James' church, New Brighton