The Church Council has, for more than five years, been working on a project to refurbish the interior of Holy Trinity Church, Rayleigh: to prepare it to better serve our community for the future. In this, we shall be building on the work of many generations over the past 640 years, during which a church has stood in the centre of our market town. In the Past thirty years we have successfully restored the historic Tudor South Porch to the grade II* listed church (£40,000); created a highly successful Parish Centre to the north (£350,000) and more recently restored the exterior of the ancient church (£357,000). The last significant internal refurbishment was in 1912.
We have completed the statutory consultations for the refurbishment and now have agreement in principle to carry out a range of improvements, including very welcome encouragement from the Church Buildings Council. So, we are now working on detailed designs prior to seeking Faculty (planning) approval. We have extended the engagement of our architect and appointed both a quantity surveyor and consulting engineers who are well experienced in work of this kind. The quantity surveyor has provided budget costings for each of the elements planned and unfortunately the estimated total could be as high as £1m, compared with the approximately £350,000 we have available. So, with some regret we decided to reduce the scope, so as to make the fund-raising task more realistic within a shorter time scale, and to reduce the impact on the other work of the Church. We currently estimate the total cost now, to be up to about £480,000. The financial pressures coming from the Lock-down have exacerbated the issue and we will phase the work so as to ensure completion of the ‘basics’. These are replacement of the electrical system and lighting, which is many years out of date (from 1935); replacement of the heating system, which is inefficient and unreliable; and re-decoration because the church appears dingy and unwelcoming, with some of the paint peeling off.
Having been advised that our pipe organ is beyond economic repair, and after extensive research, we plan to replace the instrument with a high-quality Viscount digital organ. As this is physically much smaller, we will be able to open up and extend the chancel to achieve a massive improvement to the natural light and also the creation of ramp access to the chancel, for wheelchairs. The light and space will be further enhanced by the replacement of the clergy vestry with a ‘vestry in a cupboard’. The improvement to the chancel will be completed by a unified paving with pale Ancaster stone and by extending it by about 1m into the nave, with full width steps. The rather ‘heavy’ choir desks will be replaced by movable furniture, so as to improve flexibility of use, e.g. for concerts.
We also aim to open up the back of the nave, so as to create a much improved space for ‘milling’ or activities such as Café Church. This will involve moving the large stone font to the south aisle and the audio-visual desk into the NW corner. Consequent to this, we plan to reverse the positions of the pulpit and lectern. The other actions in our original list, such as the replacement of the pews with chairs and reinstatement of a balcony, will be left on hold for the future. To see some sketches, and a floor plan of how this all should look, please see the Project 640 Gallery at http://www.parishofrayleigh.org.uk/Project640/Project640Gallery