REPAIR work is set to begin on the water-damaged tower at St Michael’s Parish Church in Lyme Regis next week.
Scaffolding will start going up around the tower on Tuesday, August 27 and, due to the complicated nature of the work, this will take about two weeks to erect.
Specialist contractors Ellis & Co, from Somerset, are then scheduled to start work on Tuesday, September 9. They will be removing the pebble dash render from the church tower to asses the damage caused by water ingress.
Repairs will be made to the timbers and walls of the tower, and it will then be rendered or left with the stone exposed depending on its condition.
The work, which will also include repairing the church clock, is expected to take 15 weeks and should be completed in time for Christmas.
The main entrance to St Michael’s is currently closed to the public, as plaster started falling from the walls in the baptistry due to the water damage. The north entrance is now being used instead, and this is expected to remain open for the duration of the works.
Services should not be disrupted and the public footpath running through the churchyard will also remain open.
St Michael’s Parochial Church Council (PCC) were able to give the go ahead for the work after Lyme Regis Town Council donated £40,000 towards the £150,000 project.
The church needed to raise 80 per cent of the total cost before the diocese would allow work to begin.
The council initially offered the church £25,000 but later increased it to £40,000 to help St Michael’s reach this target – a decision which has proved controversial with those who do not attend church.
However, members of the PCC and town council have emphasised that the grant was to preserve one of the most historically significant buildings in the town, and not about religion.
St Michael’s Parish Church is the only grade I listed building in Lyme Regis – the Cobb being classed as a structure, not a building – and is open for the whole community to use everyday, as well as for special occasions such as weddings, christenings and funerals.
The PCC is now concentrating on raising the remaining £30,000 needed to reach the total project cost and is holding regular fundraisers.
If anyone would like to make a donation to St Michael’s or has any ideas for fundraising events, please contact Dawn Baker of the PCC on 01297 443478.