Not ‘out with the old and in with the new’, but merging the best of both worlds. Under the stewardship of main contractor Woodvale Construction, modern machinery and building practices were paired with time-honoured skills in stone, slate, stained glass, and wood to create a stunning restoration of Lavey’s landmark St Mary’s Church. Restoration began on May 18, 2018, and it soon became apparent to the Woodvale team, headed by Project Manager Paul Devine and Site Manager Dessie Brennan, that this project would be challenging and rewarding in equal measure. First on the agenda was a solution to the main road’s close proximity and a single access point. “It’s not often you have your site office, parking etc separated from the worksite itself, so we initially had to put together a pedestrian action plan to ensure the safety of workers and public,” Paul explained.
It was the first of long list of logistical issues, with St Mary’s spire perhaps the most daunting. “To erect a 16-metre spire in the middle of an existing roof is quite an engineering feat,” added Paul. “The spire was a project in its own right. There was the survey, drawings to get agreed, then transporting the long steel fabrication skeleton on the back of a lorry to the lead-works. The problem was then getting it out again because of the weight (in excess of six tons) and the complex job of a tandem crane lift to put it in place.”
The spire also had a knock-on effect. “Installation of the spire meant we couldn’t get the roof weather-tight. Normally you start at point A and work to point B, but on this occasion we had to work from both ends towards the centre. Even the scaffolding was an engineering accomplishment as it had to cantilever in.”
Fortunately, Dessie Brennan was at hand, a Site Manager with more than three decades of experience. “Dessie’s forte is restoration work and his engagement with the church’s building committee, the architect, and the sub-contractors was crucial. There is no substitute for experience, and his timely and knowledgeable interventions affected for the better many areas of the project.” A recurring theme was authenticity. Procurement by Woodvale was the responsibility of Quantity Surveyor Declan McCann. “All the materials sourced had to be sympathetic to the original design and character of the church. To that end samples of the materials that were eventually installed on the build were meticulously sourced for approval by the church committee and project architect. The result is reflected by the excellent standard of finishes throughout the project.”
Sourced from different locations, the roof slates were individually graded and coloured to prevent any discrepancy; the Stations of the Cross was lovingly hand- painted; and the striking centre- piece altar was up-cycled from a convent in Omagh, taken apart piece-by-piece, labelled (some parts as small as match boxes) and reassembled on site. The stonework too, was a story in itself, with the external granite shipped from China. Closer to home, the basalt proved more problematic. “Something that didn’t enter the equation during the planning stage was that local quarries now won’t work with basalt because it’s too hard to cut. It had to be sourced, then taken to another yard to be cut and dressed which was very time consuming.”
The painstaking and precise nature of much of the work was further illustrated by the new stained glasswork. Both traditional and contemporary, the process started in November with meetings and artistic drafts. Materials were then purchased, the glass fired and put together, then another round of approval meetings. Some of the glass was then returned to the furnace to alter colour shades – the procedure taking fully six months.
The result of Dessie and his team’s efforts, plus a little [Paul] Devine intervention, is a quite stunning restoration. Tardis- like, St Mary’s beautiful yet relatively modest exterior now gives way to a cathedral-like interior, completely transformed with seemingly endless shards of natural light illuminating sandstone and oak. It really is sight to behold.
The brief was straightforward, to provide the congregation of the church with an altar window that celebrates Our Lady of Mercy and the child Christ, giving a worthy backdrop for the celebration of mass. The difficulty, however, was the scale (7m) and the format of the three altar windows. Taking up the challenge of this blank canvas, Derry-based studio Alpha Stained Glass, drew on their extensive experience and expertise to create a bespoke set of art-works in stained glass.
Established in 1986 by the late Joe Coyle, literally Alpha’s founding father who trained and inspired much of the workforce that continues to carry on this centuries old traditional craft. Alpha is essentially a family- run business, with a workforce of eight people, skilled in all aspects of stained glass. Some aspects of the process have been digitised, but overall, the production of stained glass windows has not changed for hundreds of years. That process is meticulous. It starts with the development of artworks in consultation with the architectural team and church committee. The artwork is then rendered on a 1:1, life-size scale. This gives Alpha and the client an opportunity to view the artwork at actual size and make final adjustments, as well as acting as their working drawing to cut and lead glass pieces. The cutting, painting and firing of glass began in February, the windows were finally assembled through August and installed in September.
The three stained glass windows in St Mary’s sanctuary are an awesome sight. Seven meters tall, the middle window comprises of 5 separate sections. These took three days to install and a further two to weather-proof with a storm- glazing system developed by Alpha over ten years and approved under the Heritage Council of Ireland’s ‘Caring for Stained Glass’ guidelines. The installation process is the culmination of the years’ work; three days of meticulous fitting to ensure durability for the next hundred years.
For one of the Alpha team during installation, it was like looking in a mirror, as he was one of the local people who modelled for the figures in the window. As well as these figures, Alpha thought it was important to make connections with the local landscape. For example, the inclusion of the colliery winch indicates the Parish’s connection to Newcastle via emigration; tying local narrative with the larger spiritual narrative depicted in the windows.
A second commissioned painted glass window resides in the sacristy at the rear of the church, facing the traditional altar window. Fr. Graham and the church committee were very receptive to a more contemporary approach for this design brief which uses acid etching and enamelling techniques on mouth-blown, flashed glass. The first time Fr. Graham saw it he really loved it and the reception for this too has been very positive from all. With stained glass dormer windows and leaded diamond windows with brass openers in the new extension, plus stained glass side-lights, entrance-way door screens, repair of some and resurfacing of all clear diamonds on the windows in the nave, this was a challenging, but ultimately rewarding project for Alpha.
From the initial consultation to the selection of the hand- made glass, through the design, crafting and installation of the windows, this has been a process of collaboration and trust between Alpha, the client and the contractor and architect. There is a great feeling of pride standing back and looking up at the stained glass, knowing it will be viewed, be a talking point and be a part of the history of St. Mary’s for many generations to come.
Alpha would like to wish Fr. Graham and the parishioners of Lavey the very best for the future in their beautiful church.
Stonework, woodwork, glazing – the results of the restoration and renovation work to St Mary’s Church in Lavey is there for all to see. Other aspects of the project, like the heating and domestic services system installed by McCorley Mechnical & Electrical, may not be as noticeable to the naked eye, but are equally impressive.
“The first part of the job involved disconnecting and removing the existing heating system,” explained John McCorley. “Once we had got rid of the old it was time to install the new system agreed with the architect from Mullarkey Pedersen and the church committee.”
Well, they do say two is better than one. “We put in place a new pressurized LTHW (Low Temperature Hot Water) system, with two boilers employed because of the size of the building. In addition to this being an energy efficient system, it also dramatically reduces carbon emissions. We also installed an underground LPG tank at the rear of the church grounds.”
There are now 22 new radiators in St Mary’s, with routing of the pipes to this network of radiators and underfloor heating no easy task. “With the floor only being 75mm, one of the biggest challenges was to get the pipes through without puncturing the membrane.”
McCorley Mechanical & Electrical has a full order book in place for 2020, and such is the growth of the electrical side of the business that they have just appointed a new Electrical Contracts Manager. “I think perhaps we were viewed as a company that only dealt with the maintenance side, but we can offer the full range of electrical requirements for any size of project.”
McCorley Mechanical & Electrical , 53 Carlane Road, Toomebridge, Antrim BT41 3PA,
T: +44 (0)28 7965 0823
E: [email protected]
With a company motto that states: ‘Protecting Our Heritage’, and a highly impressive portfolio of work including landmarks like Belfast’s Grand Opera House, Bangor Castle, and the Lanyon Building at Queen’s University, Clarke Restoration was the natural choice for all things stone- related at the St Mary’s Church project in Lavey.
With the gothic revival church stripped back to the bare bones, this was another opportunity for the ISO-certified County Fermanagh firm to showcase their full repertoire of stonemasonry skills. “We were involved in all the stonework at St Mary’s over a 12-month period,” said Paul Clarke.
“From picking the beautiful black basalt at Bradley’s Quarry in Kilrea to building the grand new entrance; the walls, doorways, pillars, windows, and all the pointing; this was a really rewarding project for Clarke Restoration to be involved with alongside the main contractor Woodvale.”
In addition to the restorative element of the project, there was also the need to ensure that new was compatible with old. “An important aspect of the stonework was in relation to the new extension, specifically making sure it matched the original parts of the building. Also, we managed to restore the existing stone without causing damage.”
To that end, Clarke Restoration’s fully-trained and accredited operatives employed the steam-based Doff system. Incorrect techniques like power washing ca n damage historic buildings, but this temperature and pressure-adjustable super- heated steam system (150 degrees Celsius at the nozzle) can harmlessly remove paint and biological matter such as algae, fungi, and moss. Even better, it also sales off spores and therefore the need for a chemical biocide.
St Mary’s Church, Lavey, can now be added to recent projects like the Grade A listed Ulster Hall, and Carrickfergus Castle’s 12th century Great Tower (‘The Keep’) – local heritage safeguarded by Clarke Restoration.
Founded in 1972 and established as a limited company by Hugh McAlary five years later, H.M. Electrics Ltd worked hand in hand with main contractor Woodvale Construction Ltd over the last 18 months to transform this Lavey landmark. Calling on decades of experience, allied to an innovative approach to problem solving and installation, the family-run Maghera business delivered an accomplished and comprehensive electrical package.
Part of the company’s website mission statement says: “H.M. Electrics Ltd believes that completing and delivering a project requires a combination of trusted procedures – tailored and developed over time in today’s competitive market.” Never was that more relevant than in Lavey. Starting with a strip back to the building’s shell, Operations Director Declan McAlary and his crew created bespoke solutions to meet the needs of client and contractor. The result is a state- of-the-art electrical package that includes external lighting, external and internal power supplies, new mains switchgear and containment, unobtrusive internal general and emergency lighting facilities and controls, and lightning protection to the building and its services. Forward planning was also required so ground level works could continue in tandem with what was a cathedral height fit-out. In addition, H.M. Electrics Ltd installed data cabling and communications, public address (both internal and external), CCTV, Video web, and Angelus Bell systems.
Safety and security have also been prioritized with a back-up generator and the latest intruder and fire alarm systems. “We pride ourselves in our workmanship, attention to detail, and our relationship with the local community,” said Declan. “Working on a project like St Mary’s Church, an historic Grade B listed building that’s so close to home, has been very special. It means a lot to H.M. Electrics to have played a part in facilitating its continuation as a major part of the local community.”
Building upon their excellent reputation for working on heritage projects, Armatile was chosen by St Mary’s Church in Lavey to supply bespoke tiles and other decorative features. With a sympathetic approach to ecclesiastical restoration, the team expertly interpreted the project’s design needs for flooring, mosaic and feature tiles, translating the client’s creative vision into reality; preserving the integrity and beauty of the historic building.
Armatile worked closely with all project stakeholders, including architect, Mullarkey Pederson, builder, Woodvale Construction and church committee members to deliver tailored surface solutions that exceeded client expectations. The Project Team worked with the client on initial designs, colours and materials before sourcing and installing high quality ‘Crema Marfil’ marble for the sanctuary and fully vitrified porcelain tiles for the nave.
Its Manufacturing Team created complementary borders, two decorative centre panels for the aisles and also waterjet-cut a large circular feature to highlight the baptismal font and entrance pathway area. With the church set to reopen this December, there is no doubt the exquisite tiling will be admired by all visitors for years to come.
That experience helped the County Tyrone company plot a path through the multitude of different lead products on the market to deliver the ideal solution for the spire at St Mary’s. “The frame was delivered to our yard and the painstaking 12-week process of cutting, folding and welding of the code 6 lead to the eight sides of the fletch began,” explained Leadcraft’s Sean Grimes.
Based in Beragh, Leadcraft adhered to the detailed fletch plan, in addition to lead work around the church’s roof and windows. Sean was also on hand for the fitting of the fletch, which weighed in at close to seven tons. “We were on site for the reinstallation, with two cranes being required to set it in place. Virtually all the work was as per the original architect’s plan, with the only minor change being the late decision to glaze the base to protect against the elements.”
The company’s main market is Ireland, but such is their reputation that when requested, they have travelled to mainland UK to advise on and supply heritage projects.
“We were delighted to be approached by architects Mullarkey Pedersen and main contractor Woodvale Construction Ltd to supply bespoke aluminium rainwater goods to the beautiful 1870’s black stone Gothic revival St Mary’s Church in Lavey,” said PFC Rainwater Systems’ Martin Brown.”
PFC Rainwater Systems carried out Rainflow calculations for the church. “We recommended the size and style of bespoke aluminium moulded Ogee rainwater goods to match the required capacity, and also to sympathetically enhance the aesthetic appearance of this lovely old building.”
Working with Woodvale Construction’s Site Manager, Des Brennan, PFC Rainwater Systems Ltd then measured, manufactured, and supplied the custom-built Aluminium Polyester Powder Coated Rainwater System. “We are delighted to have worked with Mullarkey Pedersen Architects and Woodvale Construction Ltd on such an interesting and rewarding project,” added Martin.
For the past year, the Strabane company’s crack CRS Card-carrying team has brought its talent to bear on painting at the St Mary’s Church renovation project.
“The job involved washing down, graining, under-coating, long hours of scaffolding and preparation before the actual painting process,” explained Stephen Barr.
It may not quite rival the Sistine Chapel, but the ceiling work at St Mary’s still provided a considerable challenge. “There was a lot of detailed work throughout, but the ceiling was probably the most difficult part of the entire job.”
The stonework was also specialised, with Barr Bros utilising Keim mineral paint – recommended for historic and listed buildings due to its restorative qualities and durability.
“It’s been a long and rewarding job,” added Stephen.
“We’re now up for the next challenge, so don’t hesitate to get in touch.”
T: +44 (0)7 7423 79369
The altar is one of the most eye-catching features in any church, and St Mary’s, Lavey is no exception. S. McConnell & Sons undertook a meticulous altar restoration and renovation, liaising closely with the church committee on every step of the journey.
“The upper decorative section of the reredos [the ornamental screen covering the back] was removed from a convent in Omagh and re-erected in Lavey,” explained Contracts Manager, Paul Morris.
“It was taken down piece-by-piece, numbered, photographed and recorded.” Part of the upper section was not used at the client’s request, and there was a new section inserted at the bottom of the reredos – both designed and installed to compliment the original design.
“We also manufactured and supplied the new main altar, aside from a decorative front panel – the church committee recovered this from another altar. The two side altars had been taken down by others. We collected these from the site, returned them to our workshop to be dry built (a 3-D jigsaw puzzle) to ascertain what work needed to be done. This was again agreed with the client and both units were rebuilt in the church.”
T: +44 (0)28 4176 3717
Working hand-in-hand with the main project team, the company utilised expertise gained on prestigious restoration projects like the 16th century Lough Eske Castle, leaving no stone unturned (naturally!) to seamlessly match the original stonework.
McMonagle’s talented in-house design team played a vital role, carefully sourcing sandstone materials that were cut and profiled to colour match, then crafted into the eye-catching external architectural surrounds, internal arches and columns.
From the stunning entrance door surround to the Silver Granite paving, kerbing, and steps – the St Mary’s Church project is the latest to benefit from McMonagle Stone’s unrivalled expertise.
“Restoration projects like St Mary’s Church are close to McMonagle Stone’s heart,” said Dan McMonagle. “As part of a project team, it’s rewarding to not only play a part in returning these historic buildings to their former glory, but also ensuring the building is preserved for future generations to enjoy.”