St Leonard’s, commonly known as Shoreditch Church, is the Grade I listed parish church of Shoreditch. The current building is in Palladian style, built during 1736-40 by George Dance the Elder.
St Leonard’s is often referred to as the ‘actors’ church’, as the medieval church was situated near The Theatre and the Curtain Theatre, England’s first purpose-built playhouses, established in Shoreditch in 1576 and 1577, and many notable actors were buried in the church or churchyard.
The church is on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register and is in need of much repair and refurbishment.
Our first project involved repair and strengthening of the portico, where water penetration caused by blocked roof outlets had led to the rusting of previous iron repairs, thereby spalling and cracking its stonework.
We have also carried out repairs to the Nave roof, as well as archaeological investigations within the forecourt.
The recently completed West facade repair project is part of a comprehensive program of conservation and regeneration helping repair the Church and remove it from Historic England’s Heritage at Risk register. It included stone repairs and cleaning to the facade up to the clock level, as well as repairing the clocks and improving the portico roof.
Shortlisted for SPAB John Betjeman Award, 2018
Shortlisted Hackney Design Awards 2020
The West Facade repair project focused on investigating and addressing the causes of stone decay. The west wall was heavily disfigured with cement pointing and poor repairs. Rusting bedding cramps caused localised spalling, exacerbated by unsympathetic cement repairs. The balustrades were weathered and developing cracks. The portico columns and lower wall were suffering from heavy erosion, and sections of stone were falling from the capitals. During the project, a large piece of stone fell from the spire without warning, due to rusting iron cramps.
We carried out a GPR investigation to determine the location of hidden iron cramps and establish a program of repair and replacement with stainless-steel elements. We replaced splitting and broken stones and carried out mortar and indent repairs. We pinned and repaired damaged capitals and secured fractured lintel stones. Damaged bottles to the balustrades were locally repaired using resin and stainless-steel dowels. Careful research meant that we were able to save a huge amount of original fabric. The cement smeared pointing was carefully removed from the fine ashlar stone, and the elevation was completely repointed in lime.
We gently cleaned the façade, using poultice and light steam for heavy encrustation.
The portico roof was repaired, and the design of secret gutters improved to prevent further blockages. New lead weathering was installed to all the cornices and the top of the pediment.
Steeplejacks carried out inspection and urgent holding repairs to the spire to make it safe while fund-raising for the next repair project.
All clock faces had been in poor condition for decades, letting in wind, rainwater, and pigeons. We repaired and re-gild the cast iron skeletons and reinstated missing sections of Opal glass. We restored the South stone dial to its original design by removing the existing black paint. The glass clock faces were originally backlit with gas lights, lately replaced by crude fluorescent lights. We now have new energy-efficient and environment-friendly photocell sheet lighting. The clock mechanism was cleaned and repaired.
The west façade project has been a real boost to the Church. The building is visibly looking much more welcoming and inviting. The repaired clocks especially capture a lot of attention. The hands are turning again for the first time in nearly 40 years, and the backlit clocks are clearly visible to the locality, symbolically emphasising that time starts moving again for the Church after decades and looking to the future.
Contractor: Bakers of Danbury
Structural Engineers: The Morton Partnership
Quantity Surveyor: Sawyer & Fisher