DRUMOAK CHURCH UPDATES

FEBRUARY 2019

It has been a long time since I was last here talking about the refurbishment of Drumoak Church, and, as I was recently reminded, it is almost a year now since the work on the building stopped. I thought I should start by taking just a few moments to recall that last update in March 2018. 

 

I started by saying: A great deal of additional work became necessary due to the problems associated with water ingression and the subsequent dampness. I mentioned the inspections and reports for the refurbishment of the windows, with the better news of the relatively good condition of the stained glass and two adjoining windows. I spoke of the work in the vestry, which had revealed further issues with dampness, and the minor works carried out in the area to the rear of the church.

 

Very little has happened since then, except of course the erection of the steel framework for the intermediate floor – something you may have seen during the open afternoon on Sunday, 11th November. Many of you who visited the church that day commented on two things in particular. Both were positive; the first was how big a space there actually was, and secondly how warm the building felt – probably due to a good summer and the concrete floor, which acts as a kind of storage heater. 

 

So, what has happened in this past year? From the outside, very little. A small team has carried out weekly inspections of the church building, in line with the requirements of our insurance cover. Some of the items stored around the exterior of the building have been relocated for storage, and that’s about it.

 

Except there has been quite a lot going on behind the scenes. I have to admit those of us who are working on this project have found this past year – shall we say – a little challenging, and at times very disheartening, but we have been working. We have been gathering together various options of the way forward, costings for those options and attending many, many meetings, seminars and discussions. We have been researching the funding opportunities we have. Some of these are from the usual funding agencies, but we are also looking ‘outside of the box’, and much of that work has to be handled with a great deal of ‘delicate’ investigation and a good deal of confidentiality.  So I can’t expand on that today.

 

But I can ask you to recall that, over the past weeks, the congregation has been asked to pray for the project.  We have had a prayer evening and prayers on the weekly orders of service, and I am pleased to say they have been answered. There is some very good news to share about funding.  Look at how well the recent fundraising campaign has gone, with over £10,000 collected.  We can also add a little more to that from donations sent directly to me – some of which have come from the community – both locally and further afield. 

 

As previously reported, we embarked on this project with a vision and the belief that we were working with a fundamentally sound building. As you know, this was not the case, and it has led to delays and a lot more work than originally planned; and that has been trying. But every so often something good happens, and I want to finish today with some really good news.  Towards the end of last year, the Project Team submitted an application to an organisation called ‘Listed Places of Worship’.  This is a charitable organisation, which works with HMRC to recover some of VAT payments made on work carried out to care for listed church buildings. Our application led to a series of telephone calls, e-mail exchanges and requests for further information and documentation. This led us to wonder if it had been a worthwhile exercise. Well, it most certainly was! On Thursday morning, I opened my e-mail account and found the following message, which I want to share with you today:

 

‘We write regarding the above application, and can confirm that a transfer in the amount of £45,010.26 has been made and should appear in the nominated account presently’.

 

I am going to finish by letting you know that the Kirk Session recently gave the Finance Team approval to set up a special Restricted Fund for donations to the project. This is a fund, which will run alongside the usual church accounts, but will be restricted to costs relating to the work on Drumoak Church. It means any monies, which are specifically donated to the project, will not be included in the figures from which our Ministry and Mission Contributions are calculated.  All monies contributed to the restricted fund will go in total to the project. Members of the congregation, who make any contributions to Drumoak-Durris Church can, if they wish, instruct the Finance Team to allocate a percentage of their payments directly to this fund. This is something I would ask you all to consider. It is something I shall come back to again on another Sunday morning, and it is something for which I have the necessary forms with me today.

 

Now you are going to have to humour me, I have just got to repeat that figure of £45,010.26!

Marion McNeil, Session Clerk of Drumoak-Durris Church

MARCH 2018

Towards the end of March, we reluctantly reached a decision to temporarily suspend the building work on the refurbishment of Drumoak Church. This was not an easy decision but it was the right thing to do after a series of unforeseen setbacks. As previously reported, we embarked on this project with the belief that we were working with a fundamentally sound building. It turned out this was not the case, and this has led to a great deal more work than had originally been planned. 

Drumoak Church is a listed building, and this has inevitably restricted the options we have for the necessary upgrading. Working through these restrictions is taking more time and effort than we originally envisaged. However, we are fortunate in that we have access to professional advice, not only from our own team, but also from the local authority and Historic Environment Scotland, as well as from the General Trustees of the Church of Scotland. In addition, we shall continue to investigate the potential for further funding towards the increased costs.

 

Unfortunately we cannot realistically estimate how long we may have to suspend the work, but are we disheartened? Of course we are! Are we giving up? No! Although that would be the easy option, it wouldn't be the right choice. Would we like help? Yes, if you can offer any help or advice, please do talk to us. Is there anything else you could do? Yes, please pray for the team working on this project, for the church building itself, and its continued presence - in all its forms - in this community.  

Marion McNeil, Session Clerk of Drumoak-Durris Church

What's happening at Drumoak Church?

Following the move to the Church Hall in early August, the essential preparatory work for the refurbishment programme of Drumoak Church was started. A small team was formed and the pews removed. All the pews have been sold, and have generated a modest income. Our thanks go to everyone who bought one of the pews. We hope you are enjoying them!

Work then began to remove the pulpit, the organ and the raised Chancel area. Unfortunately, this revealed the wall plates, which support the floor joists and in turn the floor, were generally in a poor state of repair due to the lack of any damp proof
material. In addition it was found some of the joist ends were also affected; as was the base of some of the dado panelling. Much of this had been hidden by the raised floor of the Chancel, and the organ. As a result of these findings, it was agreed the
best option was to replace the entire ground floor with an insulated concrete floor incorporating underfloor heating. In addition a damp proof membrane will be carried up the external walls to a height of 400mm.

This decision raised the issue of the next stage of the works in that the foundations for the upper floor would need to be incorporated within this ground level concrete floor. In addition, the supporting structure for the upper level would need to be
constructed, and this necessitated the removal of the balcony. Similarly the final layout for the ground floor needed to be agreed because the position of the lift shaft and lift pit needed to be finalised. Previously the plan had been to provide temporary kitchen and toilet facilities. However following consultation with the architect and builder, and due to the amount of preparatory work now required within the building, it was decided these should become the permanent facilities on the ground floor level. This decision was made taking into account the potential savings in costs of initially providing temporary facilities, which would later be replaced during the subsequent stages of the refurbishment programme. At this time, it was agreed the
upper level floor/lower level ceiling should be built across the whole of the building.

As this preparatory work progressed, areas of the internal plasterboard were removed, and further evidence of dampness was discovered. Many of the original wooden fittings, which held the plasterboard to the outer walls were found to be
completely rotten. This in turn led to the stripping out of all the internal walls, and the discovery of problems with the original fitting for the windows of the Church building. Each of these windows had been fitted directly into the stonework of the external
walls, and are unframed. Currently advice is being sought as to how the windows can be more suitably and securely fitted, and ensuring adequate insulation is incorporated.

As a result of this drastic change to the original plans for this stage of the refurbishment programme, some additional ‘dirty’ works have been undertaken in further preparation for the next stage. The internal doorway between the vestibule
and the main building has been widened, and access through the wall alongside made in preparation for the planned extension to the southern aspect of the Church. This work necessitated not only the removal of the staircase and upper landing in the
vestibule area, but also revealed further evidence of water ingression. Inspection of the roof of the Church building has ascertained only minor work is required to remedy this problem. A similar opening will be made on the northern wall of the
Church (beneath the stained glass window) in readiness for the extension planned there. All of the openings, which relate to future stages of the project, will be temporarily covered by internal plasterboard and insulation until the access is
required at a later stage.

The implications of all this are of course obvious. The work is going to take longer than we first thought, and just as importantly there will be an inevitable impact on the costings for the work. However it also has to be recognised that, although much of
what has been discovered has been unsettling for the plans we have, it has given us the opportunity to ensure the work we are now undertaking will sustain this Church building in Drumoak well into the next two hundred years – and that was always the
goal we had in mind when we proposed and started this refurbishment programme.

Although much of what has happened over these past few weeks has been distressing to those of us closely involved, there have been moments of sheer amazement at the craftsmanship and ingenuity of those men who first built the
Church. Just this week, the staircase was being removed and it was discovered each one of the stairs, which wound up the three walls of the entrance vestibule, had been carved from solid blocks of granite, which had been built into and supported by
the outer walls of the Church itself. As the balcony was removed, it was found to have been supported by two massive wooden supports – each of which were also built into the walls of the Church. All the metal fixings and nails had been individually
handmade. Just imagine all of that work without the benefit of electric light and our
modern machinery.

Marion McNeil, Session Clerk of Drumoak-Durris Church

SUNDAY 22ND OCTOBER 2017

It has been some time since there has been an update on the progress of the refurbishment programme at Drumoak Church, but the amount of work, which has been done, is evident in the current appearance of the inside of the Church. 

When some of the Elders made a visit to the church building last Sunday, they were surprised – if not shocked by what they saw. The inside of the building has been stripped back to the outer walls – exposing the bare stone construction.  This work had to be done, as it became increasingly evident that the water ingress previously discovered was more serious than first thought. 

As you will remember from the last update – at the end of August - the scope of work originally planned has had to be extended.  We told you of the decision to replace the wooden floor with an insulated concrete floor, as well as the preparatory work for the installation of the lift and new stairwell.  In addition, the supporting structure for the upper level was to be constructed, and this would necessitate the removal of the balcony. At that time there was some discussion needed as to whether this upper level floor would extend across the whole of the building.  A decision has now been reached which will see the foundations for the floor being laid to cover the whole area.  This will of course in turn provide the ceiling for the lower level. 

 

Previously the plan had been to provide temporary kitchen and toilet facilities.  However following consultation with the architect and builder, and due to the amount of preparatory work now required within the building, these will become the permanent facilities on the ground floor level.  So there has been another change to the plans, and copies of the new ground floor layout are available for you to see. 

There are also some additional works being undertaken. The internal doorway between the vestibule and the main building is to be widened, and access through the wall alongside will be made in preparation for the extension to the southern aspect of the Church.  This work will necessitate the removal of the staircase and upper landing in the vestibule area.  A similar opening will be made on the northern wall of the Church (beneath the stained glass window) in readiness of the extension there.  Whilst mentioning this window, I have to let you know that all the windows will – at some point – require renovation or replacement.  The options available for this still need to be researched. 

We don't have to tell you just how difficult these past few weeks have been.  It seems that just as we get used to the idea of one set-back, yet another comes along.  But throughout this time, which has been trying, there have been some chance encounters, which have strengthened our belief that this is God’s will for our Church of Drumoak-Durris.  With some concern we spoke to the General Trustees in Edinburgh, who were quick to express their support, and offered us all the help they could - not only in taking this project forward, but in handling the implications which come with it.  Similarly, the Session Clerk has notified Alasdair, the man who guided us through the LEADER application, to inform him of what is happening.  His immediate reply was ‘Don’t worry, we can sort it!’ and he will be visiting the Church on October 23rd.  There have also been some occasions when visitors to Drumoak have expressed interest in what is happening, and their encouragement has been so heartening.   

The implications of all this are of course obvious. The work is going to take longer than we first thought, and we shall be worshipping in the Church Hall for longer than expected. So we are getting a storage container, and all those items at the back of the hall will be removed – giving us back the space we need during this time.  Just as importantly there will be an inevitable impact on the costings for the work.  We don’t yet have a full breakdown of these costs.  However, the architect and builder are working on that, and we hope to have this information in time for the Kirk Session meeting on 26th October. Once these costings are available, and we have an indication of the timescale for the work, the small team from the Fabric & Finance Group, who have been seeking funding for the project, will investigate further the opportunities we have for securing funding towards the new costs.

 

We thank you for your continued support and patience during this time.

SUNDAY 27TH AUGUST 2017

Just a couple of weeks ago, the Session Clerk, Marion McNeil, spoke of the preparatory work which had begun in Drumoak Church.  As many of you will know the pews were removed, and two of them have been retained, as it is planned to incorporate them within the new layout of the interior of Drumoak Church.  The remaining pews have all been sold, and are now in their new homes.  From the messages we have received, those who have bought one or more of the pews are delighted with them.  We even have a photo of a pew that has been converted into a wine rack by a local resident:

Once the pews had been rehomed, work began to remove the pulpit, the organ and the chancel area.  Unfortunately, this revealed that the wall plates, which support the floor joists and in turn the floor, were generally in a poor state of repair due to the lack of any damp proofing material.  In addition it was found some of the joist ends were also affected, as was the base of some of the dado panelling. Much of this had been hidden by the raised floor of the chancel, and the organ.   

 

As a result of these findings, and the subsequent implications this would have on the planned programme of works, the Property Convenor and the Session Clerk met with the architect and builder.  At this meeting, it was agreed the best option was to replace the entire ground floor with an insulated concrete floor. In addition a damp proof membrane will be carried up the external walls to a height of 400mm.

This decision raised the issue of the next stage of the works in that the foundations for the upper floor will need to be incorporated within this ground level concrete floor. In order to do so, the final layout for the ground floor needed to be agreed because the position of the lift shaft and lift pit would need to finalised. The balcony will have to be removed, and the floor of the upper level (where the sanctuary will be) will need to be constructed to form a ceiling above the kitchen and toilet areas.  Ideally this floor/ceiling could be built across the whole of the building.  However, we would not be able to make use of the upper level until the next phase of the programme, when the required secondary fire escape will be incorporated. 

All of this has meant that we now needed to revise not only the drawings, but also (and perhaps more importantly) the costings. This is in hand, and it is hoped we will very shortly have this information, particularly in relation to the costs.  The Kirk Session shall then be in a position to make an informed decision as to the immediate work to be carried out. 

Now at the time all of this came to light, some of us initially felt that this was a serious setback, but just the other evening, when the Kirk Session met, it was suggested we should look at this as being a blessing.  Had we not been advised and in turn reached a decision to remove the pulpit and the organ and level the chancel floor, we may have found ourselves refurbishing our church building on fragile foundations.  And we all know what the outcome of that story would be. 

 

To close, the Kirk Session has agreed that updates of the work in Drumoak Church will be shared at future services – not every week, but on a regular basis. Finally, Rev. Jean Boyd has encouraged us all to pray so we can get through any setbacks or challenges that come our way and continue to progress and fulfil our plan for the church.

SUNDAY 13TH AUGUST 2017

Some weeks ago, the Session Clerk, Marion McNeil, stood at the lectern in Durris Church and spoke of the start of the planned refurbishment work at Drumoak Church.  You may well recall that she mentioned that in spite of many years in the planning stage, the actual start date had come as what can only be described as bit of shock! Well, that feeling has intensified somewhat over this past week. As expected on Monday 7th August, the contractor started some preparatory work for the church, prior to the commencement of his contract for the refurbishment programme of Drumoak Church.  Whilst his team began work to remove the pews, a small group from the church began the task of moving out of the church building. 

Once the pews had been removed, they either had to be collected by the buyers, or delivered to them, and the team from the church grew.  All the pews have now been sold, and moved to their new ‘homes’ - special thanks go to everyone who helped with this task throughout Tuesday and Wednesday.  


At a meeting early on Tuesday morning, it became apparent we would not be able to worship in Drumoak Church, or the church hall for the upcoming Sunday service – hence the change of plan which will see all services conducted in Durris Church for the foreseeable future. The Elders were not aware of this decision until late on Tuesday afternoon, and we would like to say a thank you to all of them for letting you know of the change. At the moment, it is not certain how long this arrangement will last and could well be subject to change, but as the work progresses, there will be regular updates at the Sunday services.  


In view of the work being undertaken, Drumoak Church is now very much a ‘building site’, and as such has restricted access. But we do very much appreciate that you will all be interested in seeing just what progress has been made.  So, we are planning to have an ‘open viewing’ of the church on 19th August between 10am and noon.  Everyone is welcome to come along, although for safety reasons access to the Sanctuary will be restricted.  However there’s a fine view to be had from the balcony area!
 

Drumoak-Durris Church of Scotland is a registered Scottish Charity SCO33779

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