If you have walked around the church tower at St Mary’s over the last few months you will have seen signs warning against the dangers of possible falling masonry. This has been caused through the inevitable weather erosion of the locally quarried soft Arden Sandstone which forms the walls of the bell tower. Whilst this has stood for centuries it is possibly also a sign of the increasing air pollution in more recent years. Fortunately, when the bell tower was built there was no economising on the thickness of the walls and consequently we can afford to lose a centimetre or so of the outer surface without effecting the integrity of the building.
The solution recommended by the parish architect is a process known as defrassing which involves examining each block of stone on the exterior of the tower and then releasing any loose elements. The only practical way of achieving this task, working down from the top, is by abseiling. Although the churchwardens are often asked to put their hands to many tasks, this was one they felt should be left to the professionals. Consequently Ecclesiastical Steeplejacks of Stirchley were contracted to undertake the work which was undertaken in August. The photograph is of one of the steeplejacks at work. Fortunately the weather was fairly benign
As far as we are aware this is the first occasion on which defrassing has taken place and again is an indication how conditions have accelerated the deterioration of the stonework.
With the benefit of hindsight perhaps we should have arranged sponsorship abseiling to defray the cost of the work.
Hugh Roberts, Churchwarden