A comprehensive programme of extensive repair and conservation work at the historic St Magnus Church in Lerwick has just been completed in a scheme that has been described as “Marvellous – a first class job restoring the church for another 150 years of life” by Bill Brock of St Magnus Church.
Main Contractors for the scheme were DITT, a local firm experienced in working with historic buildings.
Works to the church, which was built in 1864, were extensive and included complete stripping and re-slating of all the building’s pitched welsh slate roofs, using both original and new welsh slate; repair and refixing of the corss/finial base stones at the gable apexes, skew copings and crow steps to an acceptable condition, and replacement of all rainwater goods with cast iron fittings painted to the original building specification.
In addition, extensive stonework repair and replacement was required, including to mullions, transepts and lintels, and a stone window in the chancel was so worn that it had to be completely replaced with a new one, hand cut by a local stonemason.
Some of the stained glass windows were removed and sent to stained glass experts Cannon MacInnes Glasgow for restoration, whist other windows were restored on site. Some of the windows are rare and were made by 19th century Gothic revival architect Ninian Comper. These have been described as ‘arguably the best ecclesiastical collection of stained glass in Shetland’, and, ‘extremely valuable as a Scottish resource’. New stained glass windows were also installed in the vestry and tower.
Masonry paint which had been applied to stone arches in the mid 1970s was removed to reveal the original stone and significant areas of plasterwork were replaced – including on the whole of the west gable, which was re-plastered in traditional lath plaster and lime mortar.
Just as the originally planned project was being completed in July last year, it was discovered that the steel beams supporting the church tower were completely corroded through, which necessitated replacing the beams with reinforced concrete beams. This was a difficult job and required shoring up the tower, removing the ceiling and floor and digging down into bedrock to form a new concrete base for the beams, with all of the excavation having to be carried out by hand.
The cost of the project was partly funded by grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Historic Scotland and the National Churches Trust.
Other grants came from the Scottish Episcopal Church; the Scottish Churches Heritage Trust; the All Churches Trust; the Garfield Western Foundation; the Shetland Churches Council Trust; Shetland Islands Council; Shetland Amenity Trust, and the National Churches Trust Ltd.