St John the Baptist Church
on 5 March 2023, St John’s reopened for Masses and other services. This marked the completion of a significant building project to repair the grade II* listed building following support from a range of grant funders, including the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
The project has benefitted from input from a large team of specialists who have worked closely with the parish team. Those specialists have included a conservation architect, structural engineer and quantity surveyor, a main contractor and specialist subcontractors, the North West Historic Churches Committee and representatives from the Diocese of Salford. The project followed an earlier phase of work – funded by the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund – at the entrance to the church.
Completed work – external
- The leaking roof covering over the dome of St John’s has been removed and the underlying concrete repaired. A new waterproofing system has been applied by specialist roofing contractors. Extensive scaffolding was required to do this work.
- The concrete clerestory and its 36 windows around the base of the dome have been repaired.
- All broken glass has been replaced and damaged windows repaired.
- The roof covering over the altar has been renewed and the external brickwork behind the mosaic has been repaired.
- A number of other flat roofs have been repaired, including renewal of the waterproofing and roof-light over the memorial chapel.
- The concrete, brickwork and window at the entrance to the church has been repaired and flat roofs repaired.
- All rainwater downpipes have been replaced.
- Temporary repairs have been made to the roofs over the Marian room and the piety shop. The available funding was not sufficient to include these transepts in the project works.
Completed work – internal
- The Oppenheimer mosaic has been painstakingly repaired and fully cleaned by a large team of mosaic restoration specialists.
- The low walls over the Marian room and the piety shop have been removed to let in more light and to make the windows more visible.
- Plywood covering the tops of the narthex windows has been removed.
- The old door behind the Our Lady statue was removed and the area was restored and made waterproof.
- Temporary lighting for the altar area has been put in place.
- The interior of the church has been redecorated throughout after lengthy consultation with the Historic Churches Committee (HCC) which recommended and approved all colours and designs. The intention throughout by the HCC and the architect has been to restore the church, as near as possible, to its original appearance, using muted colours to emphasise the clean lines and elegance of the architecture.
Agreed Future work
- The building will continue to dry out over the coming year. Water that is trapped in the concrete and the brickwork will continue to leach out causing staining to the paintwork. This will be monitored. The decorators will return in early 2024 to repaint any unsightly staining.
- Salt may come through the mosaic as the concrete and brickwork behind it continues to dry out. This can be removed with a brush and is part of the ongoing maintenance programme. This will be monitored.
- The architectural team will monitor the completed repair works throughout the coming year and any defects will be remedied by the building contractors before a final payment to them is made.
Desirable Future Work – subject to funding
- The roofs over the two transepts that were not part of this project will need a complete repair if they are to remain waterproof.
- An experienced lighting consultant has provided a fee proposal for developing a lighting scheme for the church. It may be that this can be installed in phases as finances become available.
- The floor of the church needs to be professionally treated and restored. A good time to o this would be when the decorators have completed their work in a year’s time and the pews have been removed.
- The possibility of making better use of the Marian room and narthex to generate an income to pay for ongoing maintenance is being investigated.
- Quotations are being sought for all the above work.
- While the renovations to the building have been taking place, the parish team has been busy preparing and delivering a range of community activities. So far, for example, we have had the highly successful hard hat tours, a series of professional talks and our first mosaic workshop.
- We are in the process of appointing volunteers to ensure the church is open for more hours, is more welcoming and has an attractive heritage offer to visitors.
- If you have a few hours to spare and would like to be involved in this parish project, please contact the parish heritage officer Gemma Bailey at Gemma.bailey@diocese of salford.org.uk who will explain what roles are available.
Written by John McNerney on behalf of the parish team