St Mary’s Church situated in the village of Datchet has been the focus of a local fundraising campaign to save its steeple for several years. With funds in place, Cliveden Conservation carried out initial surveys of the Church and found that vegetation growth was a concern as several trees had taken root at a high level within the stonework pinnacles. Access was also restricted which meant that a number of the louvers needed to be removed to allow for the scaffolding to be hung through the bell tower.
Summary of the work carried out
The conservation team began by defrassing all the stonework and assessing the condition of all masonry elements. All the loose and open joints, including the Kentish ragstone, were raked out and repointed with hot lime. Several stone indents were pieced in and numerous mortar repairs were undertaken. By using a poultice, the team successfully removed all the black sulphation that had built up over the years. As a final protection all the high-level stonework was then shelter coated and new louvers were cast and aged to match existing ones.
As well as repairing and restoring the stonework Cliveden Conservation repaired and repainted the weathervane. The team also supervised the clock repairs – the faces were dismantled, repaired, repainted and reinstalled as part of the project.
While the work was being carried out sad news arrived, Ron Piggott who helped raise £94,000 for the essential repair and conservation work to be carried out sadly passed away aged 82. In memory of his dedication, St Mary’s Church asked Cliveden Conservation to replace the two worn figures on the steeple with carvings to represent Ron Piggott and the steeple whose repairs he championed as his final project.
Jem Hobbs specialist stone carver for Cliveden Conservation created the labelstop of Ron Piggott from photographs provided by the family. Jem made a clay maquette and then carefully hand-carved the stone to produce an exact likeness and capture Ron’s characteristics for years to come. The second carving was then created of Ron Piggott’s hands holding a church steeple. Bath stone was used to produce both carvings.
In addition to these carvings, Cliveden Conservation created a unicorn and a griffin, again in Bath stone, to replace the heavily weathered existing carvings. All the decorative carvings have now been installed with the addition of a special time capsule of Ron Piggott’s life which sits behind the sculpture of his head.
St Mary’s Church Parish Council