A Trade Magazine for Northern Ireland's Building & Design Professionals
St John’s Parish Church, Castlederg
Traditional building methods were used by Muldoon Bros to repair and improve Castlederg church.
Excellent workmanship, a return to traditional ways of building and a strict adherence to the highest health and safety standards have helped Muldoon Bros deliver the refurbished Church of Ireland Castlederg to its parish.
Dating back to 1731, the Church is a Grade B listed building and so required an extra level of care and attention. The project was funded by Heritage Lottery Fund, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Garfield Weston Foundation, TBF Thompson Trust and All Churches Trust.
Cyril Muldoon was the project manager on the build which was carried out over three phases.
“A significant project in terms of size and scope, this was a great job. It was definitely a learning curve for us but we’re really happy with the result.”
Works involved re-picking and plastering the tower and main body of the church. The old cement and wet dash was removed and re-done with a traditional lime mortar method. Re-pointing of the stonework around the rest of the building also had to be carried out.
“Parts of the church were in disrepair, particularly around the bell tower. We were also tasked with re-slating the roof and re-forming the valleys, all of which had to be carried out in the traditional manner. Any stones that were in disrepair had to be taken out and replaced and new ceilings were put into the vestry. Disability access was also catered for.”
Cyril and the team also worked on the main wall inside the church using traditional lime mortar.
“To say it was a new way of working wouldn’t be strictly accurate as it was a return to working with traditional materials. It meant going back to basics and foregoing the more modern ways of building that have become so commonplace. That’s why this project was particularly rewarding for myself especially. I worked very closely with the architect who has completed a lot of work like this previously; he kept me on the right path and answered any
questions I had.”
The stone walls of the church required the lime mortar to be applied in the traditional method.
“When you put on cement and wet dash you seal that wall and you make it tight whereas stone walls have to breathe. We rigorously stuck to the process of applying the lime mortar correctly; we couldn’t just go in and fire it on, there were about seven processes we needed to get through to ensure that wall was finished the way it would have been originally. We also had to follow the correct procedures when it came to mixing the lime mortar. Everything had to be carried out in a traditional way.”
For the most part, the church remained operational during the works.
“This required particular attention to health and safety standards. We had our own health and safety officer on the job to ensure the fabric of the church was protected and also to ensure the congregation coming in and out were kept safe.”
According to Cyril, the biggest challenge was the weather.
“The weather was against us whenever we were working on the bell tower. There was a lot of sheeting and shoring up and protecting the walls whenever we were trying to complete the render process. It added up to a lot of extra work.”
Good working relationships between all teams on site made for a stress-free build and smooth sequence of works.
“Throughout the process, everyone worked extremely well together. I’m very proud to have been involved in this project. Now that it’s been restored to its former glory, I hope people appreciate the beauty of the church and the fact that traditional methods were used in the refurbishment. Everyone involved, from the architect to the rectors in the church, were extremely encouraging and helped me through the entire process. It’s actually my own church so it’s great to see the work that’s been done every week!”