In August 2014 Christ Church, Derriaghy was surveyed as part of a routine inspection carried out on a five-year cycle. We had anticipated problems being identified with the roof, however to our surprise the surveyor reported that the roof was in relatively sound condition, but we had an immediate problem with the spire! The spire is 130 feet tall and it is difficult to see any detail of the top sections with the naked eye unless you know what to look for and our surveyor spotted a gap in some of the masonry at the top section. His recommendation was to have a high-level inspection carried out to ascertain the extent of the damage.
We needed expert advice and following a competitive tender process, Alastair Coey Architects were appointed to provide architectural support.
Alastair Coey Architects are one of a relatively small number of architectural practices in Northern Ireland who hold conservation accreditation and indeed much of their work centres around the restoration of listed buildings.
Christ Church, Derriaghy is a Grade A Listed Church and is described in the listings as:
“one of the most striking churches in Northern Ireland, the distinctive steeple and crow stepped gable … the contribution of its steeple to the local landscape and the idyllic setting make this church of particular importance."
Alaistair Coeys arranged for a high-level inspection, during which the surveyors took photographs which clearly show the extent of the problem. The photographs can be viewed in the Picture Gallery below.
The problem is the result of a phenomenon called “rust jacking”, which is common to structures of this age and design. It occurs when moisture from rain eventually penetrates the mortar joints and causes the wrought iron steel supports to rust. The rusted steel swells and causes the stone to crack.
The recommendation was that the spire, and possibly the square bell tower, would have to be dismantled, the iron structure and damaged stone replaced, and the structure rebuilt. The estimate cost of the work was in excess of £600,000.
The parish was presented with a major financial challenge, but one that we as the current custodians of the church considered had to be tackled. Application was made to the ‘Listed Places of Worship Scheme’ operated by the Heritage Lottery Fund and we were awarded a Round One pass. This provided funding to allow further survey work to be carried out and to a establish a tender process for the repair work.
We are most grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for their support and we hope they will continue to support us with a Round 2 award which we have recently applied for. If our Round 2 bid is successful, then this will assist significantly towards the cost of the repair contract.
We have also been awarded grants in principal from a number of charitable bodies, including The National Churches Trust, The Weston Garfield Foundation, the Esmee Mitchel Trust and the Lady Dorinda Dunleath Trust. We are very grateful to these bodies for their support.
At parish level we have an ongoing fund-raising programme and are very appreciative of the donations and efforts of parishioners and friends.
Part of our fund-raising activity has included a number of musical events in the church, an ideal setting in terms of layout and good acoustics. However, we are somewhat restricted due to the fixed seating and absence of meeting rooms, toilets and kitchen facilities in the actual church, which remains true to its 1871 design. These facilities are however available in the adjacent parochial halls.
It is hoped to commence repair work on the spire in early 2019 and it is anticipated that the project will take approximately 9 months to complete.
On behalf of the Select Vestry and people of Derriaghy we would again express our thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund, the various Trust Funds and parishioners for their continuing support. Without them we would be unable to save this beautiful church for posterity.