Just over six months into the huge renovation of Melton’s iconic St Mary’s Church and many of the new features are beginning to take shape.
The Melton Times was granted an exclusive look around the building this week for a progress report on the £1.9 million Re-Ordering Project.
It was initially hoped the church would be open again in time for the annual Remembrance Sunday service on November 12.
But the builders will not now hand over the building until November 24, with the first planned event set to be the popular Christmas Tree Festival on December 1.
One of the first things you notice is that the floor is now all on one level, making it easier to access for wheelchair-users and those with mobility issues.
Loose chairs will be used, rather than fixed pews, to help provide a more user-friendly venue for a wider range of events than before.
The pipes for the new underfloor heating are still visible with several flagstones still to be replaced. There are existing radiators but they have been ineffective because of the size of the church.
Ian Neale, who is coordinating the scheme for the church, said: “It will be much warmer in the winter because we are putting in a draught lobby in the main entrance to keep the heat in.
“We will be able to run the heating at a lower temperature and run it for longer.”
Electricians have re-wired the building and installed power-saving LED lights which will be controlled by a tablet computer.
Many of the light fittings dated back to the 1970s and were considered grubby and unattractive. Lighting levels were also poor and noisy.
Improvements will see much greater illumination inside the church and architectural features wil be lit up in a building, which partly dates back to the 12th century.
The organ is being refurbished at a cost of £170,000 to give it ‘a better voice’, with the pipes having been taken away to be overhauled.
It’s the first renovation carried out on the St Mary’s organ since 1955 and it will also be able to be moved around the church and plugged into a selection of new sockets.
Work is well advanced on the new toilets and a striking new stained glass window is to be put in during the first week of November in the north aisle.
Mr Neale said: “People won’t see a lot of things different about the church when we re-open but we are bringing the building into the 21st century with all the changes.
“I am very excited about what we will able to achieve with it after the work is completed.”
Workmen came across the last resting place of Melton people who were buried under the church when the floor was dug up.
One was the emminent solicitor Anthony Wadd, whose lead casket was seen in a brick enclosure with a roof on it. He was buried there in 1758.
The St Mary’s project is being carried out by Midland Conservation Ltd and site manager Derek Monahan said: “The floor has been the biggest part of the job for us.
“It’s a Grade 1 listed building and the main challenge has been dealing with the fabric of the building in a sympathetic way and ensuring we don’t do any damage in the church.”
Fundraising is now just around £200,000 short of the overall cost of the project.
One of the ways of making up the shortfall is inviting members and other people to sponsor elements of the building, such as organ pipes for £20 each, pendant lights for £1,500, candelabra lights for £3,000 or paving slabs in the nave or transepts for £100 a square metre.
To take up a sponsorship or for more details, call at the parish office at The Samworth Centre.
The Bishop of Leicester will re-dedicate the church on December 13, with weddings and funerals set to resume in the church early in the new year.
l The footpath leading past St Mary’s Church from Church Street through to the Play Close park is closed for another four weeks while it is being resurfaced. Pedeestrians are asked to use Burton Street in the meantime.