Crumbling St Thomas’ Church spire masonry could be ‘life-threatening’ to Islanders

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Rafferty, who were commissioned by a Jersey architecture firm to inspect the 19th century church’s steeple, concluded that stonework directly below the building’s cross was ‘fractured and split’ and that there was a high risk of it ‘becoming detached’ and falling to the ground below.

A planning application has now been submitted by Reverend Canon Dominic Golding to conduct ‘various external repairs to the spire’.

The report, which forms part of the planning application, said: ‘The external inspection of the spire stonework revealed that there is a high risk of certain areas of stonework that could fall to the ground as highlighted in this report. These defects create a potential life-threatening situation.

‘There is also sporadic areas of deep open and perished mortar which we have estimated in total being approximately 40sq-m overall which also covers the internal works around the openings.

‘Then there is the uncertainty of the cross support steelwork which needs to be addressed immediately as with the stonework. On a positive note there appeared to be no defects recorded to the stonework on the tower below the spire at the time of our inspection.’

According to the report, the cast iron ornamental cross at the top of the church’s spire is also in poor condition and is corroded from many years of being exposed to the weather.

‘Unfortunately, from the external inspection carried out we cannot confirm the full extent of the corrosion damage to this steelwork,’ it said.

‘The cast iron cross is a substantial structure in size and weight and its structural integrity needs to be confirmed immediately.’

Prior to any work starting, Rafferty recommend implementing an exclusion zone around the site before erecting steeplejack ladders from ground level to the full height of the church tower and spire.

They also say that ‘cantilever’ scaffolding should be installed up to three metres above the spire stonework.

The planning application also contains a report compiled in October by Hartigan, engineering consultants based in St Martin.

‘The inspection carried out by Rafferty has clearly identified notable defects. It is of the upmost importance that we advise all concerned that even a small fragment of mortar falling from the height of the spire is a danger to life.’

They also add that protective enclosures will need to be installed at the main east entrance and south entrance as a precaution, while work takes place.

The church underwent a £1 million refurbishment project between 2006 and 2007 which included extensive repairs, repainting and touching up details on the columns, the ceiling and walls.

Workers also retiled the sanctuary and aisles, the tabernacle was repositioned, underfloor heating was installed and the electrics and lighting were upgraded.

St Thomas’ Church has been contacted for comment.

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