Client: Freeman Historic Properties Limited
Completed: 2020
Category: Places of Worship
Contract Duration: 18 months
Architect: Caroe Architects
What we did...
  • Restoration & Conservation
  • Stone Masonry & Brickwork Repairs
  • Structural &  Roofing
  • Leadwork & Rainwater Goods
  • Glazing & Custom Joinery
  • Specialist Services

USL were pleased to work in partnership with architectural practice Caroe on the vital restoration of St Mary the Less in Thetford, Norfolk.

Although not named in Domesday, the church of St Mary the Less was likely founded during the Late Saxon period. It retains a Norman doorway and part of the original north nave wall, but the majority of the existing structure was constructed in the 14th century.  The west tower was reconstructed in the 15th century and further repairs were carried out in the 16th century.  However following the Dissolution; the church apparently fell into disrepair, poor condition and suffered from vandalism.  In fact, the tower was in a very poor state of repair. The roof collapsed some time ago allowing rainwater into the lower timber floors of the tower, which had all collapsed.

The Grade II* Listed church received grant support from Historic England Repair Grants towards the extensive tower repairs including new roof covering with restoration works commencing in 2019.

USL were pleased to undertake the following conservation works on the tower including;

  • Erection of scaffolding to the tower.
  • Extensive stone cleaning to remove years of grim, vegetation with internal treatment of biocide.
  •  The parapet was removed to string course and re-built in its entirety.
  • Stone replacement, repairs and repointing to tower including the replacement of dressed and undressed stones. Stone types included Clipsham Merlons to parapet with chalk and flint to walling.
  • Similarly, the buttress to the stair tower was removed for a height of approximately 3m and re-built.
  • Extensive repair and reconstruction works on all four elevations of the tower to a different extent involving the reuse of existing material and incorporating new material (flint, lime stone and handmade bricks). All repairs utilised lime mortar.
  • On the north and east elevation stonework was tied back.
  • A new roof was built on the tower and reconstructed with lead covering.  Including velux windows and oak doorway.
  • Joinery works included reconstructing intermediate timber floors to the tower including surface water drainage associated with the tower roof.
  • Installation of new electricity supply and emergency lighting within the tower.

The gallery below showcases both before and after works images, demonstrating the remarkable transformation.


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