Good news has greeted contractors working on the £2.2 million Newton’s Place museum and community hub project in Newton Abbot.
The scheme, which involves converting the former St Leonard’s Church, Wolborough Street, required the lifting of thousands of roof slates and close inspection of the timbers underneath. Despite the potential ravages of more than 170 years’ worth of weather they found the bulk of the original Victorian oak structure in fine fettle. At least 65 per cent of the old Welsh slates were also good enough to be used again. Only the softwood battens were in need of attention meaning the cost of repair is much lower than could have been the case.
"We had quite an intensive programme of removing several tonnes of guano from the roof void before we started on site proper then we had to fully inspect the rafters and the battens," said Brian Gately, site manager with the main building contractor, Pollard.
"Upon taking all the Welsh slates off we found the rafters were in very good condition. We were very surprised, but as we want this building to last another 100 years plus or even more we’ve replaced any timber we thought might deteriorate in time with new. We’ll be using reclaimed Welsh slates to replace those not good enough to go back."
For the first time ever, the roof has also now been felted to improve its weatherproofing qualities and some of the west-facing louvres have been replaced on the bell housing.
"If any of the main beams or rafters had deteriorated in any way they would have had to be replaced and that would have been a very big job," said Brian. "But this is a well built, solid church. This is definitely good news because as we continue to uncover things we don’t know what we’re going to find and when you’re working with public money and grants we have to keep a close eye on the budget. I’m pleased to say that at this moment in time everything’s going to plan."