Saturday, 17 November 2012

Up the Tower of St Mary's Church

Devizes has three large medieval churches, and St Mary's  pictured left,  stands next to my home.   With the decline in the  number of people attending church services, the building has become  redundant, and plans are afoot to turn it into an arts centre for local cultural organisations.  This morning the church  held a "Come and see the plans" morning, complete with a secondhand book sale to help raise funds for the scheme.  The drawing below shows the plan of how the completed centre will look.   The medieval layout of the church can be seen towards the bottom of the plan, with a yellow arc forming a new, low impact, low level extension constructed of glass and brick walls, with a roof of living sedum. 

The architect's design for the new arts centre.
The new building will consist a kitchen, cloakroom, toilets, three meeting rooms for hire and other small rooms for various purposes. The arc of the new building and the west wall of the church will form a small cloistered garden.   The church itself will be stripped of its pews, and moveable seating will be installed to provide a more flexible space for concerts, dances, theatre productions and singing.   I was very impressed with the plans, and the centre has, to date, enough funding to renovate and change the interior setting in the church.   The organisers will eventually bid for Lottery Fund money.  Cross your fingers, and hope that the bid for £1.5 million will be successful.

The secondhand book sale in full swing.
To the right of the photo under the arches,  can be seen the scaffolding erected for the removal of rendering on the walls, to expose the original stonework.

Devizes Castle from the top of the tower.
Best of all of course, was the chance to climb the tower, something I have always wanted to do.  I paid my £2 entrance fee, and at 11.25am joined a small group for the steep climb of 42 steps up the spiral staircase to the bellringers platform.  Here we heard about the six church bells, how they are rung, and some history of the men who rang these bells over the past centuries.  Then another climb of 52 steps, past the bell room and clock room, and then out onto the leaded roof.   What a breathtaking view of Devizes was before us, what a shame that space does not allow me to post all the photos.

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