Restoration of St. Mary’s Church

St Mary’s is a Grade 1 listed building at the top of Haverfordwest’s High Street where it forms an important and prominent landmark in the Conservation Area of the town.

  East aspect showing old gable end with clerestory and battlements added c15.   North aspect seen from the Castle

It is one of the most architecturally important parish churches in Wales as it retains so much of its medieval character and features. However,of just thirty acres, St Mary’s is one of the smallest parishes in the county, created as an urban parish in the heart of the thriving medieval port and market town of Haverfordwest.  It must therefore look for support beyond its boundaries.

In recent years £120,000 has been raised for essential building works, to restore the organ, refurbish the bells, and other essential work. Now, however, the urgency and extent of many of the repairs necessary to St. Mary’s Church were such that a large restoration project was essential.

Restoration – Phase One

A survey by the Church Architects,  Caroe and Partners of Wells, Somerset, indicated that much of the fabric of the Church was in poor condition and in particular copper sheets on the nave the roof were leaking badly in spite of many attempts at repair; three trusses were missing and other areas were decayed.  In January 2003 application was made to the Heritage Lottery Fund(HLF) for funding.

On 3 July 2003 the Church opened an Appeal to raise £1,200,000 – the estimated cost of major restoration work.  In September HLF confirmed a grant of £490,000.  A grant of £80,000 was already  confirmed by Cadw(Welsh Historic Monuments).   From that point we could open our appeal to other sources who would only accept our requests for help after HLF and Cadw were committed.

By the end of July 2004 we had received £42,163.00.  That included £10,000 from the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Friends of St Mary’s(£7,000), Sir John Perrot’s Trust(£5,000) Representative Body of the Church in Wales(£3,000), Haverfordwest Town Council(£1,000), and the Cambrian Lodge of Freemasons(£1,000).   Further major grants were promised as work progressed from the Historic Churches Preservation Trust(£15,000), The Wolfson Foundation, through the Council for the Care of Churches(£4,000), Veneziana Fund(£3,500), and the Welsh Church Act Fund(£3000),

When figures were first prepared in January 2003 the projected cost was £1,192,468.00.  Following protracted negotiations with HLF and in view of the large sum involved the work was divided into phases with Phase One being Essential and Urgent Repairs (£661,149.00) to be followed later by Phase Two, Essential Repairs Within the next Five Years.  When tenders were received in January 2005 costs exceeded the estimates of 2003 by £200,000 and the schedule of work was revised.  The principle contractor appointed was Capps and Capps Ltd of Sarnesfield, Hereford,  with  Hertel Scaffolding Services and Norman & Underwood sub-Removing the patched copper for scaffolding and leadwork respectively.  The scaffolding took six weeks to erect and weighed seventy tons.  The work was to include:

Copper roof of the nave removed to be replaced with lead and new trusses inserted.

Parapets on south and north sides of the church to be repaired.  Rainwater system to be repaired and painted.The tower to be repointed and the roof repaired.The town clock faces and hands to be reguilded

Work began in April 2005 with the arrival and erection of scaffolding which, by the end of the month, covered  most of the Church and tower and internally filled the nave.   Memorials including pulpit, font and mayor’s pew, were boxed in, the organ protected, the nave screened off with plastic sheeting and in the churchyard the grave stones covered.  The masons began removing rendering on the north and south parapets and work was inspected and recorded by the Archaeologist.

Earlier work revealed

During May the Bat Licence, necessary before work to open the roof could begin, was issued – no bats were seen. The copper roof was removed giving access to the roof space.  A 4 ton oak tree was in Capps & Capps yard to be cut into required lengths for trusses.  Repointing began and in June a start was made with the new lead covering in the roof gutters.  Work to the roof structure was underway and the boarding to the roof started.

During July new trusses were delivered and erected and work on the roof with boarding and leadwork progressed.  Painting and gilding of three clock faces started and was completed during August when work on the roof was also finished.   Work began to remove external Fitting new timbers.scaffolding.

In September and October work on the interior nave wall progressed and during October benefactors were invited to see the work that had been done.  Those untroubled by acrophobia enjoyed the rare opportunity while scaffolding was still in place to examine closely and photograph the early c16 Tudor oak ceiling with its heavily moulded beams, carved corbels, bosses and spandrels.  This was an opportunity we are unlikely to have again in our lifetime.Starting to place the new lead

By the end of  November the last of the scaffolding was removed,  memorials uncovered, the Church cleaned and on Saturday 3 December 2005 a Coffee Morning held for visitors to see the Church back in use after eight months as a builders site.  Throughout this work church services continued and were confined to the chancel.

Restoration – Phase 2

We applied to HLF for grant aid in March 2009 and were successful in being awarded a Development Grant of almost £20,000 which enabled us to develop our proposals to the standard required for a full application. In September 2010 our architects, Caroe and Partners, invited tenders from six contractors with Dorian Phillips of Llanboidy, Whitland, receiving the contract.

In December 2010 HLF confirmed its grant of £65,000.

We were fortunate that SITA Trust supported the project with funding up to £50,000 with the Friends of St Mary’s being the Contributing Third Party to reimburse 11.5% (£5,750) of the grant.

Work commenced on 26 April 2011 after a programme of work which avoided disturbing bats had been agreed with the Bat Conservation Officer.

It involved the repair of the tower roof including removal of damaged slates and leaking copper lined guttering, repointing, stone work repairs, repointing the external walls and repair of beams and structural timbers together with all ancillary work.  The roof was reslated with Penrhyn slate and gutters relined with lead.  Internally, beams exposed above the ringing chamber were found to be rotted and in a very poor condition.  They were replaced and stone corbels installed.  Ceiling removed, renewed and decorated.  Rendering and cement pointing removed from very damp walls and after drying, limewashed.

It was needed urgently to safeguard the medieval bell frame in one of the earliest church towers in the county.The cost of this work was £160,000 and the Practical Completion Certificate was issued on 20 December 2011.

We have also received generous support from:

The Austin Bailey Foundation; Haverfordwest Town Council; Haverfordwest Gild of Freemen; Sir John Perrot’s Trust; Allchurches Trust Ltd; Mr and Mrs GA Marsh; Miss Joan Rees; Haverfordwest Ladies Choir; Mr JAR Folland; The Mayor(collection at the Civic Service of Nine Lessons and Carols); donations in memory of Bernard Merriman, Alan Barker, Mrs Alice Earle and Miss Nancy John; The E & G Morgan Charitable Trust; Mr MDR Thomas; Garfield Weston Foundation; The Veneziana Fund; Welsh Church Act Fund.



Restoration – Phase 3

We hope to install a new heating system,and improve the lighting in the church. The present heating system fails to provide enough heat to use the church for concerts and other events in the winter months.

We are developing community use of this fine church, particularly in promoting cultural events for the benefit of residents and visitors.