It is a difficult challenge to preserve the atmosphere, heritage and centuries old architecture of a church, whilst also meeting the contemporary structural requirements and needs of 21st century parishioners and clergy, a challenge that the Church Officers at St Peters Church in Dunchurch, near Rugby know only too well!
This church is the heart of the village. The six bells have been ringing for Sunday service since 1724. They ring out for weddings, special events and until recently a 'Guy Fawkes' Peal was rung prior to an annual service of thanksgiving for the preservation of the King's life since the Gunpowder Plot in 1605.
The bell ringing platform was located immediately beneath the bells themselves, not only deafening for the bell-ringers but with no acoustic barrier the sound of the bells competed with the music from the organ. However a generous benefactor provided the opportunity to develop the bell ringing tower, lower the platform and build a separate room so the bell ringers could separate themselves acoustically from both the bells and the organ. The lowered bell-ringing platform had to blend with the architecture of the church, ensuring that the beauty of the original stained glass window was preserved as well as meeting all of the construction requirements of the Church Heritage committee.
The design created a new ringing chamber inside the tower, with the original floor forming the ceiling of the new room which was fully enclosed by glass across the front. Reached by a spiral staircase the new platform had a frameless glass balustrade across the front whilst a second glass balustrade was included within the new room to protect the stained glass window itself. The overall design relied heavily on glass to ensure it didn't detract from the stained glass window or block the flow of light whilst also providing an acoustic barrier.
A glass specialist was engaged to carry out the work, choosing a company capable of meeting the complex technical specification as well experience in working with ecclesiastical and heritage buildings.
The door and glass screen across the front of the ringing chamber were produced in several sections. A triple panel of Planar glazing fits across the apex of arch into a bespoke stainless channel that was made to the exact shape of the stonework. The channel compensates for a 75mm difference between the two sides of the span which were not apparent visually until an accurate template was produced prior to manufacture.
The door to the chamber pivots on bespoke stainless hinges between two side screens which are reinforced by structural glass fins that ensure the absolute stability of the installation. The stylish handles reflect the shape of the arch and were developed and bespoke made by the glass specialists and manufactured in stainless steel.
The balustrade protecting the stained glass window had to be in a single span with bespoke fixtures set into the angled stone reveals of the arched window to hold the glass securely but unobtrusively. The glass was produced in 21.5mm laminated glass. The frameless balustrade across the front of the platform was produced in 15mm toughed glass, resin anchored into bespoke brackety which was coated in bronze to match the spiral staircase.
With the platform 4 metres high above the floor, the heavy glass had to be lifted by crane, using a genie lift that was small enough to fit between the pews - posing another challenge that was successfully met by the experienced team of glass installers.
Glass expert Peter Hazeldean said, 'The use of glass in ecclesiastical and heritage buildings is a superb way to bring them into more contemporary use. It neither obscures not detracts from the original architecture and with careful design it can be fitted with minimal intrusion to the structure, preserving the ancient stonework. Sensitive design with the use of glass fins and minimal fixings ensures a visually pleasing and wholly functional result.'
The finished installation at St Peter's is stunning testament to everyone involved from initial research into how other churches have incorporated contemporary needs into heritage buildings through to the stylish interpretation of the requirements and precision fitted result.
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Ion Glass is the UK's leading specialists in architectural and decorative glass installations. Glass works perfectly in ecclesiastical and heritage settings as well as modern, commercial or residential environments. Ion Glass provides bespoke solutions for the most complex design briefs. Click for details of glass installations in heritage buildings.
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