Refurbishment and Repair
Church House stands in the peaceful churchyard of St Bartholomew's Church, Areley Kings, near Stourport. Built in 1536, it is an exceptional, Grade II* listed building due to its undisturbed and pristine wattle and daub and oak timbered fabric.
Prior to undertaking refurbishment Ledbury-based conservation architects, Stainburn Taylor and Michael Reardon, in conjunction with the Worcestershire Building Preservation Trust, commissioned an extensive archaeological and structural survey of the property and its surroundings in July 2003.
The original structure survives very well within the fabric of the building. An archaeological evaluation trench to the North of the building revealed post-medieval deposits.
The Areley Kings Church House is one of only two out of an original 300 which survive in Worcestershire. It was dated using Dendrochronology - a highly specialised technique involving counting the number of tree rings in 10 of the building's ancient timbers. Also, the church house has no chimney and is jettied - with the upper floor jutting out - unusual in the countryside and a symbol of power, which also gave an insight into its history.
The Worcestershire Building Preservation Trust took this rapidly decaying building under its wing in the late 1990‘s. Eventually in March 2002, a grant of £371,500 was received from the Heritage Lottery Fund and work started on the restoration of the building. Using the detailed archaeological survey to inform the design process, Stainburn Taylor and Michael Reardon architects specified the use of traditional methods and materials, maintaining the property’s essential character and appearance but bringing it up to date from health and safety aspects. An entrance lobby, toilets and kitchen block were also added making it viable for community use.
Lime mortars and renders were used to allow the building to move and breathe. Oak was employed for the new joinery but detailed in a contemporary way in order that the new construction is more easily identifiable. This detail is continued through into the new building in order to give a consistency of detail to the project as a whole. Additional structural supports to the oak trusses at the first floor of Church House also have a deliberate contemporary language.
Carpenters carrying out repairs were encouraged to carve dates into concealed faces of oak repair timbers to future archaeologists.
The installation of an underfloor heating system on the ground floor keeps the building at a minimum low background temperature which can be raised accordingly prior to use. This avoids the damaging swings in temperature and moisture content. The use of underfloor heating also keeps the spaces free of obstacles such as radiators, which is beneficial to wheelchair users, ambulant disabled and youngsters alike.
Half of the ground floor of Church House retains its original blue brick floor. These have been painstakingly reinstated as they were found and demarcate the stalls from the time when the ground floor was used as a stable.
The sloping pentice boards to the gable ends of Church House are primarily aimed to help protect the external fabric from rainwater. At Church House bat boxes have even been incorporated as part of the pentice board design in order to accommodate a known bat population.
The total project was completed in March 2006. Due to the tremendous effort and determination of the Worcestershire Building Preservation Trust, the support of the local community and Heritage Lottery Funding, Church House has been saved for the village to use and enjoy for many years to come.