St. Alban the Martyr

Phase II Roof Renewal

 This project will complete the renewal of the Victorian roof of St Alban's Church started by our Phase I Roof Renewal project in 2016.

Work commenced in March 2020 and is now due to be completed in December 2020, following a nine week closure due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

You can view the latest progress here: http://www.saintalban.co.uk/restoration/roofrenewal2/november/.

The work has been made possible by a major grant of up to £222,000 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, made possible by money raised by National Lottery players.

Awarded under the now closed "Heritage Lottery Fund (Grants for Places of Worship)" scheme to our project " Revealing St Alban's Hidden Heritage", this grant covers about 43% of the £518,000 need to complete the renewal of the roof, repairs to the high-level walls and windows while scaffolding is in place, provision of improved step-free access to the church and a range of new interpretive materials and activities to make the church and its heritage accessible to a wider range of people with different backgrounds. Additional funding will come from VAT offset from the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme and the PCC will contribute about £212,500 towards the cost of this work and an additional £12,500 for related work that could not be included in the grant, making a total of £225,000. Of this our Restoration Fund will provide about £51,000 from donations and grants specifically for restoration work and the remaining £174,000 from reserves that the PCC has put aside from unrestricted bequests together with contributions from the reserves of our Printing Fund and Maintenance Fund.

The areas of the of the roof shown in light grey on the plan have already been renewed in 2016, with the aid of a grant of £85k from the Heritage Lottery Fund Listed Places of Worship: Roof Repair Fund. The areas shown in dark grey, consisting of the continuous roof of the nave, chancel and apse, the north transept and the north and south aisles, will be renewed in this phase. The striped area is the roof or the Lady Chapel, which only requires small repairs as it was renewed together with the adjacent vestry roofs in 1995.

Why did the roof need renewing?

The original Victorian terracotta tiles with which the church was roofed in 1881 had no holes for nails. They simply hung from the battens fixed to the rafters by two small projections ('nibs'). Originally the tiles were plastered on the inside of the roof ('torched') to hold them in place, but the torching had long since crumbled away leaving the tiles vulnerable to lifting by the wind. 

Handmade Victorian tiles hanging by two nibs from the batterns, with one modern machine-made three-nib replacement at the bottom. Traces of torching plaster remain where protected by the left-hand rafter.

The new brown brindle Dreadnought tiles have nail holes as well as nibs, and every tile will be nailed in place to provide increased resistance to damage by the wind. The colour of the tiles, already used in the Phase I roof renewal, was chosen to match the current weathered appearance of the old terracotta tiles, not the "flower-pot red" appearance that the roof must have had in 1881 before it was darkened by the polluted air of Victorian Birmingham.

Old and new tiles

A hole in the north slope of the nave roof from inside.

Hole in the north slope of the nave roof from outside.

As there was no waterproof 'sarking' membrane inside the tiles of the main roof, rain entered where tiles were missing and eventually seeped through the stone vaulting staining the ceiling, while tiles falling from the nave roof damaged the aisle roofs. As long ago as 1998 the PCC was seeking (without success) a major grant from English Heritage to enable the renewal of the Victorian roof. Since then deterioration had continued, while damaging storms became more frequent. In 2016 the state of the roof led to the church being added by Historic England to its register of buildings at risk: "the terracotta tiled roof has passed the point of repair and needs to be replaced urgently".

You can read our Press Release about this award here: Protecting and Revealing the Heritage of St Alban’s Church; and the press release about a development grant of up to £28,000 to enable us to prepare the detailed application for the grant here: St Alban's PCC, Birmingham, wins National Lottery Support.

Follow the progress of the roof renewal work from March 2020 here: /restoration/roofrenewal2/marchtomay/.