• Nash Peake Works,Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent, ST6 5BT England

Lightning protection installation

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A complex and high risk major repair made the more easier by a touch of kindness

St Thomas’ church Tower and Spire stands approximately 196 feet above ground level. The Tower is 33.83m (111ft) in height and the Spire is 25.9m (85ft) in height. The Tower and Spire is constructed from Brittany Granite and is of mid Victorian Gothic design. The Tower has stepped buttresses and incorporates the main entrance porch of the church with triple lancet window with a tracery rose. All four elevations have tall lancets to belfry complete with louvres. The corbelled eaves lead to the transition stonework to the Spire. Surmounting the Tower is an open worked Spire which incorporates two sets of four decorative Gothic type dormer openings complete with decorative finials. Closer to the summit of the Spire are eight rectangular openings one on each broach all on the same level. The Spire houses the main cross beam that supports the ornate Cast Iron Cross. There are a series of  steel rods, four in total, that are hooked under small decorative openings. The cross beam and rods provide the compression to the spire stonework.

HOW IT BEGAN

Prior to 2019 St Thomas’ Church in St Helier Jersey was struck by Lightning. Rafferty’s were asked to visit Jersey to undertake a review of the current lightning protection system and to compare this with current design systems in accordance with BS EN 62305 and BS6651. A full design and risk assessment was carried out which revealed the existing lightning protection system fell far short of what was required to provide adequate lightning protection to the 196ft high Church tower and spire and main buildings. Subsequent to this Rafferty’s were employed by the Church to install a modern lightning protection system. The site was mobilised, specialist steeplejack access was installed and the work was started. It was during these works that it became apparent that more serious problems existed with the spire stonework and the Cross steelwork.

HEALTH & SAFETY CONSIDERATIONS

St Thomas’ Church spire and tower is positioned right on the main public highway in to the main town of St Helier. The Church employed the services of Colin Smith Partnership based in Jersey to project manage the works and to ensure the work carried out on this listed building was completed in accordance with Jersey law. The initial concerns faced by Mark Cashion of Colin Smith Partnership (CSP) and Nick Rafferty of Rafferty’s was the potential for a major safety incident that could result in danger to life due to unstable stonework and unsafe steelwork. On close inspection it soon became apparent that past substandard previous repair works have been undertaken in addition to this major stone finials that surmount the dormer openings on the spire were literally rocking on their stems, eventually when removed it revealed that the dowels and bonding mortar had completely perished. The church, the parishioners and the public were blissfully unaware that huge heavy stones  were wobbling precariously above their heads. But this was not the only problem. The steelwork which was originally installed when the church was constructed in the 1800’s, was heavily corroded and there was also serious doubt to its integrity. The open Spire had allowed the weather to take its toll on the steelwork causing serious corrosion attack to the main support for the Cross which also acted as the main compression to the Spire stonework. In essence the church was in a dire situation that needed to be acted on swiftly to avert a protentional major health and safety incident.

It was a tough project but it was great working with Rafferty’s and the quality of the effort and workmanship of the guys on site as well as Carl and yourself Nick is something that you should be very proud of!
Mark Cashion Project Manager – Coilin Smith Partnership.

PHASE 1 - MAKING MATTERS SAFE

Towards the end of 2019 Rafferty’s experienced Directors set about designing a scaffolding that was 1) capable of providing safety to the church, parishioners and the public. 2) that was designed in such a manner that the work could be fully completed without any safety incidents and 3) was far more cost effective than a full scaffolding from ground level. This was a huge undertaking when considering how close the church is positioned in relation to the main public highway. With many hours of discussions with Mark Cashion CSP and Canon Domonic Golding, we were given the instruction to proceed with the scaffolding installation. The men chosen to undertake the work were handpicked from our steeplejacks based on knowledge and experience. We arrived in Jersey at the end of January 2020 to start the much needed scaffolding works. Once the scaffolding was completed the Spire was considered safe with no possibility of stonework or steelwork falling to the ground. Everyone involved breathed a sigh of relief. We are told that our scaffolding was commented on by members of the Jersey government as being engineering construction achievement to be admired. Everything had gone perfectly to plan, then just as we were making plans to undertake the repairs the Covid virus struck in March 2020. This was a blow to the whole project as whilst we had made everything as safe as possible the loose stones and corroded steelwork were still in place and were needing immediate repair works. At this point it was decided that the project had to stop until we had clear guidance from both the Jersey and UK Governments.

PHASE 2 - GETTNG ON WITH THE JOB

With a massive effort made by Canon Domonic and Mark Cashion of CSP, Rafferty’s were back in Jersey end of June 2020 and were getting on with major refurbishment works. Additional scaffolding was installed to the full height of the interior of the spire to undertake the removal of the cross steelwork and to repoint the internal stonework. To remove the cross required the careful deconstruction of the spire stonework. The eight finials and supporting stonework were deconstructed, repaired and reinstated with new stainless steel dowels.

The cross support steelwork was replaced in stainless steel and the cast iron Cross refurbished and gilded. The full height of the external spire stonework was fully repointed and the top section rebuilt all as original. Whilst what is written here may sound simple and straight forward. However, it was a huge undertaking that required painstaking, meticulous attention to detail whilst maintaining the utmost attention to health and safety.

The team of six steeplejacks worked tirelessly to ensure that that the work carried out was to the highest standard possible.

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KINDNESS AT ITS BEST

Our steeplejacks worked hard 7 days a week to ensure the job was completed before the winter set in, the kind hospitality of Canon Dominic Golding and the Parishioners of St Thomas’ Church made this achievable. The Covid Virus meant that for certain stages of the works our men had to remain in the confines of the church property. The kind response from the parishioners and church members went beyond what anyone would ever expect. Home cooked food, cooked to perfection was delivered daily, our steeplejacks were offered choices of meals and deserts, they were being spoilt with kindness. This massively raised the morale of all our men on site and was a kindness that will be forever remembered in Rafferty’s long history.

“When we began the spire repairs, I was a bit apprehensive not having undertaken anything of that kind of works. The challenges certainly came at us from the outset but each time thanks to all involved we met them. The scaffolding really was a work of art and will be long remembered by the locals and myself. All seven of your steeplejacks who worked on site together with Carl on his visits made a great and lasting impression on us all. It really was a pleasure and a privilege to get to know your guys, They never gave us any cause for concern and were consistently conscientious in respecting the specific nature of the site.

Since the guys left last week we have already and several times commented how much we miss their quick humour and dare I say it also their Northern sayings! Their families can be very proud of them and so can you. Rafferty’s will be a name forever associated with St Thomas Church, Jersey.”
Canon Dominic Golding

Canon Dominic Golding
Catholic Dean of Jersey

ITV were involved in two separate filming of the work. The filming shows glimpses of the work that was carried out, but most of all we felt privileged to work for Canon Dominic and the parishioners who we cannot thank enough for the way they treated us. Also not forgetting Mark Cashion (CSP) who project managed the entire project, his involvement was invaluable.

Critical repairs being done to St Thomas’ Church Spire in Jersey

Golden cross reinstalled at St Thomas’ Church in St Helier after major repairs

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