The long-awaited moment is finally there! We have been counting down on our website for a long time and are getting very close to single digits now! After a formal Opening Service on Friday 22nd March for funders and other invited guests, we will really test the buildings the next day. It has been quite a journey to get to this stage, so we hope you are as excited as we are to finally come and see the results of the work, or maybe see how much it has changed since your last hard hat tour!
We hope you can join us to celebrate our launch on Saturday 23rd March 2019. We have an Open Day all day, from 10am to 4pm, where there will be lots of family events, tasters of arts & crafts courses, music and poetry performances and much more! We will be there to give tours and tell about the history of the buildings, and our new interpretation material includes a wealth of information on the stories related to the church, school and city of Gloucester. Please let your family, friends, neighbours and colleagues know and come and have a look in our new buildings. We hope to see you there!
Caretaker Vacancy (part-time)
We are looking for a part-time caretaker for Discover Decrypt. This role would be for 10 hours a week till December 2021.
Salary £4,628 pa (£8.90 per hour). Days of work will be generally Tuesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday, but flexibility is required.
Have a look at the job description on the website!
Clean, cleaner … !
A huge thank you to all the volunteers who responded to our “Building site to heritage site” challenge and joined us for the Big Clean. When we started on Monday morning, the builders were still working in the schoolrooms, there was dust an inch thick coating EVERYTHING in the chancel and Raikes Chapel. It seemed impossible that we could ever be ready to open for our ‘trial run’ on Saturday.
Those of us who felt daunted (including myself) didn’t let on though. We got going with hoovers, brooms, dustpan and brush, mops and cloths. By the end of Monday – a very long and exhausting Monday – it was already possible to see the floor again and rediscover the real colour of the flagstones. Gradually as the week went on the church was transformed – wood panelling and pews were polished, brass candlesticks and crosses cleaned and cleaned again, floors mopped, and mopped again, and again…. Lemon juice, one enterprising volunteer discovered, was the key to removing the lime dust, when water alone only spread a light coat of lime wash across everything. Furnishings stored in the Priest’s Room were brought down and cleaned and returned to their proper places. By Thursday it felt right to wipe your feet when you entered the building, rather than wiping them (and everything else) when you left. None of it was much fun – though there is some satisfaction in getting a shine on brass that hasn’t been polished up for years – it was hard work, long hours and, without access to kitchen facilities, the nearest coffee was down the road. Despite all this, the volunteers were unfailingly cheerful, willing and incredibly hard working, persevering with even the most unattractive tasks. The good will and enthusiasm shown by everyone who came to help was uplifting and really helped us all to get through a difficult and stressful week.
Project Manager’s Update
Goodbye – and good luck!
The role of Project Manager is extraordinarily satisfying, with plenty of ups and downs en route to a successful conclusion – but there does come a bittersweet moment when it’s time for the team that has come together for such an intense period to once again move apart and off to pastures new.
Photo credit: Terry Hughes
It’s been a real pleasure to work alongside a truly talented bunch of professionals, and at the same time as wishing the Trustees, Jess, Hellen and the magnificent Discover DeCrypt volunteers all the best as they embark on the next chapter in the life of this ancient place, I’d like to make some special mention of the team that will disappear quietly into the history books very soon:
Jonah Jay, Architect (Purcell): responding to the challenges of an historic site – where not only are there so many unknowns, there are also a multitude of stakeholders who love it and want to see it restored in a particular way – is not an easy task. Jonah’s great love for the history of St Mary de Crypt shows in the way he has considered the different layers – Tudor, mediaeval, Victorian – and incorporated them into something that is both modern and timeless.
Steve Swinbank, Structural Engineer (Mann Williams): Steve’s skill was invaluable in particular as we tackled the huge challenge that the vault presented us with last summer. When faced with the conundrum that was how best to create long-term stability whilst respecting the need to reflect the impressive barrel-shaped roof structure, we called upon Steve to design at breakneck speed temporary propping to ensure we could at least partially re-open Marylone Passage, then a permanent solution which means that below the paving stones there is a safe, solid concrete vault protecting the vault beneath which we can be confident of for years to come.
Alec Painter, Quantity Surveyor (Mildred Howells): crunching the numbers may not be the most glamorous of tasks, but without a Quantity Surveyor a project can find itself all at sea. The cost of work can often be the deciding factor in whether or not it is undertaken, and Alec’s speedy responses to the hundreds of small variations along the way were invaluable in keeping everything heading in the right direction.
Tim Bartlett and Graham Cooke, Mechanical and Electrical Engineers (Martin Thomas Associates): one of the main requirements of the Trustees when the project began was to take a bitterly cold building and make it into a warm, welcoming and well-lit space. Tim and Graham between then have delivered just that – enabling St Mary de Crypt and the Old Crypt Schoolroom to extend both a literally and metaphorically warm welcome to all its visitors, worshippers and users! In particular, the challenge of incorporating an underfloor heating system into the restricted space available between the floor level and the brick vaults of the crypt beneath was an early hurdle to be overcome – but with Graham’s advice, the system was successfully installed.
Kevin Potter, Archaeologist (Avon Archaeology): finding ancient and unexpected artefacts beneath ground is a mixed blessing – on the one hand they can be very exciting and teach us a good deal about the past – on the other hand they can lead to long delays and extra costs! Right at the end of this project, as we were digging across Southgate Street to connect our foul water, there was rather a surprising and important discovery. But it’s one we’re going to keep under wraps for a little while longer!
Jon Wilkins, Principal Designer (Wilkins Safety Group): we all know that construction sites can be dangerous places, and we all want completed buildings that are safe to operate. This is where Jon came into the project. Right from the start he checked all of our contractor’s paperwork to make sure everything was in place to ensure the safety of everyone on site, and throughout the works he has inspected not only the site itself, but all the designs as they progressed. The safe, welcoming place we will be sharing from 23rd March is in part down to Jon’s diligence.
Geoff Buckley, Approved Inspector (Buckley Lewis): a building not only has to look good and work well – it has to be legal and compliant in terms of building regulations. Geoff has commented on and inspected the site over the last 14 months, ensuring that what we have in place meets all of the relevant laws.
Bruce Kirk, Lighting Designer (Lighting Perceptions): a beautiful scheme could easily be spoiled by poor lighting. Bruce has brought to the project his expertise in this area and with it has ensured that the stunning interior of the renovated church is as light, dignified and flexible as possible – shining in all the right places whether it be for a service, concert or private hire event.
I’ve focused here on the design team whose work here will come to an end so soon – but to say there are others who have given their project their all is an understatement and cannot ever really do justice to their efforts. To Jess, Jenine, the Reverend Canon Nikki Arthy, Peter Gould as Church Warden, and all the extraordinary volunteers whether trustees or otherwise – thank you and congratulations on the fruit of your labours. You have created something really wonderful which in Nikki’s own words is your ‘gift to the City’ not only for the years ahead but the centuries to come!
Nicola Dyer, Project Manager
Time to say goodbye
Photo credit: Rowan Martin
These weeks are bittersweet, as with working towards our big Opening Weekend, I’m also working towards my very last weeks in this job. Although it is difficult to go, I know that this exciting new phase of this project and these lovely buildings are in amazing hands with Jess and Hellen. The position of Project Assistant has been very rewarding to hold for the last year and a half as I have been involved in so many aspects of this project, working not only within our team, but with so many interesting and lovely people: volunteers, partner organisations in Gloucester and external experts. I really enjoyed a job in which I could be dressed formally to welcome funders one day and be in steel-nosed boots and a hard hat getting my hands dirty on site the next day! I hope to see many of you over the Opening Weekend and I know I will be back in the months and years to come to see the transformation of these beautiful buildings into a community space continue!
Jenine de Vries, Project Assistant
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Gerald Harris, born in 1936, died on 28th October 2019 aged 83 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s. He was a husband to Irene, dear father of Jane, Claire and Fiona and much loved grandfather and great-grandfather. The funeral service was held at Gloucester Crematorium on 27th November.