Ecclesiastical & Heritage World Scanaudio

Current Issue

Ecclesiastical & Heritage World JTC Roofing Contractors Ltd

Ecclesiastical & Heritage World Lighting Dynamics UK
Core Conservation
Ecclesiastical & Heritage World Nimrod

Back Issues

Ecclesiastical & Heritage World Back Issues

Historic church rises from the ashes

In March 2010 arsonists torched the historic 19th century St Mary’s Church at Westry in Cambridgeshire, leaving it almost completely destroyed with only the four main walls left standing.

Its road to recovery was long and at times uncertain. Indeed it took much fundraising just to enable the church to properly assess the damage. From there detailed plans were developed and the necessary permissions sought before the restoration was finally able to take place.

To ensure the church was returned to its former glory it was imperative that the restoration was carried out using the correct traditional building materials.

The roof was completely gone so the first challenge was to make it weathertight by erecting a temporary roof structure – a project that in itself took three months.

Following this the stonework had to be replaced, as too did the windows, before a new chancel arch began to emerge from the ashes.

Perhaps the most complicated aspect of the project was the restoration of the curved, vaulted apse ceiling. Unusually, the laths had to be run vertically to create the smooth curve of the roof (they would typically be laid horizontally). Finding the right lime plaster was imperative, not just to work with the aesthetics of the church but also to achieve the requisite mechanical performance.

It required a plaster that would not only adhere to the laths and form a strong key (a grip around the laths so it does not fall off) but that would also be flexible enough to cope with any movement. In addition, due to its awkward positioning, it needed to be easy to apply and preferably in one coat.

Anglia Lime Company manufacture a product called Haired Chalk Mix, a reproduction of the haired chalk plaster typically used over laths by the craftsmen of 400 years ago. The addition of chalk rather than sand means that it is considerably lighter, making it perfect for ceilings, whilst the hair ensures its flexibility and strong adherence to laths.

Specialist plasterer Philip Gaches applied the plaster in just one coat to achieve the desired results, proving it to be the perfect plaster for the project.

The surface was then finished with a bound distemper specially made by Ingilby Mariners and colour matched to architect Shona McKay's specification. The end result of this complicated project is truly stunning, both internally and externally.

For further information about Anglia Lime Company call 01787 313974, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit


RocketTheme Joomla Templates