The Parochial Church Council have managed to carry out some repairs to St Mary’s Church Belstone – some more obvious than others!

The Organ has been re-tuned and cleaned and now sounds wonderful. We would ask everybody to ensure that, if you do go in the bell tower, you are careful not to move the blower box at the rear of the organ, as this is positioned to give the maximum power to the organ.

The electrics have all been checked throughout the building and given a clean bill of health, with the existing lighting being changed to new LED bulbs to enhance the length of service of the bulbs. The broken and dangerous lighting over the altar has been replaced with a more eco-friendly alternative. There has also been an upgrade to some of the lighting so that it comes on automatically when somebody enters the building to ensure the stone and book stall are illuminated, and visitors can see the inside of the beautiful church. These lights will stay on for 5 minutes after the last movement in the building so when you leave don’t worry if the lighting stays on as long as you haven’t touched any of the switches.

You will also find that a credit/debit card machine has been installed just inside the door, on the left, so that those of us that no longer carry change or money can still make donations. The common amounts of donation are shown on the tablet attached – just touch the chosen amount and present your card to the machine. Full instructions are on the wall by the machine. If you wish to donate an amount that is not shown, that can be done as well, just follow the instructions.

The lead work on the roof has been replaced and repaired with some upgrading. This is to help stop ingress of water to the building from the box gutter that runs from the tower to the altar, which had deteriorated so much that it had to be replaced. At the same time we have had a “Secret Gutter” installed and upgrading of the flashing at the gable walls to carry away any water that might penetrate the walls and roof meet. This will help the wall at that end of the building to start to dry out.

Further work will start in May, when Chris Walsh and his team will be replacing the various types of cementitious pointing in the altar walls with a lime putty. This should help the wall breathe again and give a uniform look to the exterior. Naturally this will take some time to dry so the decorations will have to wait until completely dry.

Future works in the pipeline will be to replace the rusted tie bars and openings to the windows. This work has proved to be necessary to stop the bars swelling with rust any further and causing more damage to the stone window framing. It is a very delicate operation and will be carried out by a specialist in the restoration of stained-glass windows. At his inspection the specialist pointed out that the window by the stone is a “White Friars Window” and, as such, is a bit more unusual than the normal window in churches so would have been made specially for the window. The window opposite the door is one by A L Moore and Son who were renowned stained glass window makers at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th Centuries. This window also contains a piece of glass that is no longer made in the UK and is very difficult to source so he will be taking extra care when he works on that one! We have contacted the Victoria and Albert Museum who keep a list of all AL Moore and Son windows along with photographs and they were not aware of this window. Their collection is being moved at present and being re-catalogued, so they have asked us to contact them again in the late summer to add this one to their collection. Once the repairs have taken place this will allow the windows to open and close, which should also help with the drying out of the building.

We are very aware that there is a lot more work needed to the building – including the removal of a chimney to stop the damp by the stone, as well as more re-pointing externally. The Coat of Arms above the vestry door badly needs conservation work but, as that is likely to incur a high cost, it may have to be a plan for the future.

The suggestions for removal of some of the pews have also been discussed and the number to be removed is an ongoing question. Some will have to be taken out to ensure that the building is made more usable by the community.

All these new works and any future work will have to be approved by the Diocese by way of a “faculty”. This is a church system of permission to work on a listed building and incurs a cost to the church so we have to be very clear as to WHAT we want to do and WHY before we can apply. The changes we make must be able to make the premises as flexible as possible for all to use. Whilst only the building is listed as grade 2, the building contents and church yard have to be included in permission to make changes.

As we want the work to fit with the Community’s ideas as much as possible, we would like the Community to be involved and, to this end, we would like to set up a “Friends of the Church Building” group of like-minded people who would want to ensure that the work is carried out with this aim in mind. This would also involve helping to raise the necessary funds, get quotes, etc and liaise with the Parochial Church Council. If you think you can help in any of these ways, please do get in touch.

Even if you have little or no interest in buildings but have an interest in social media and websites, or similar, and you feel you can spare a bit of time to help – again do get in touch.

If you wish to make a comment, wish to help, or have further thoughts, please contact one of the PCC members mentioned below or email to .

Stephen Cook (Vicar) 01837 659297            Sue Cruickshank (Church Warden) 840492
Michael Ash (Church Warden) 840082        Wendy Bloor (secretary)
Edwina Hill 840332         Sandra and John Moppett 840372 Joanna Currie 840270