October 2018 Update

October 2018 Update

Feasibility Study

Since our last report Acanthus Clews, our architects, have been asked by us to undertake a Feasibility Study into how the requirements for modern facilities (toilets, servery) and extra space at  Aldermaston Church can be achieved. This Study was funded through a grant from Oxford Diocese – New Projects Grant Programme.

The project team devised a set of Needs and Requirements as input to the architects for the Feasibility Study. A summary of these Needs and Requirements has been created as a leaflet and  circulation started. The October 2018 Parish Magazines & Padworth Newsletter carries this summary.

The leaflet is reproduced here:

Needs & Requirements Leaflet

Needs & Requirements - side 1

Needs & Requirements - side 2

Next Steps – Sharing for Comment & Feedback

The findings of the Feasibility Study will be widely shared for comments and feedback. It is these comments and feedback that will determine the path to a final agreed solution.

If you’d like to make comments now please use the online Feedback form

DAC Visit 13-09-2018

DAC members, Acanthus Clews architects and Project St Marys Team discussing the options from the Feasibility Study on site.

1. Oxford Diocesan Advisory Council (DAC)

We met with members of the DAC at St Mary’s on 13th September as a preliminary to their council meeting on 12th November where they will discuss the Feasibility Study options and send a formal opinion back to us. We  prepared two key documents for the DAC prior to them visiting the church.
These were:

  • Statement of Needs
    Statement of Needs
    Click image to view

  • Statement of Significance (Draft) – currently being updated to a full version by Oxford Heritage Partnership

2. Congregation & Local people

The first of several public meetings will be held at the church on 4th November 2018. Further meetings will be held around the Parish

3. Budget Estimates for the 3 Options in the Feasibility Study

We will be commissioning a Quantity Surveyor to provide budget estimates for the 3 options in the Feasibility Study.

4. Wider Consultation

Upon completion of the Statement of Significance & Budget Estimates approaches will also be made to amenity organisations

  • Church Buildings Council
  • West Berkshire Planning
  • Society for Protection of Ancient Buildings
  • Victorian Society
  • Historic England
  • & others

Next Steps – Restoration & Renovation Work

Along with work outlined above we will be looking at the potential work involved in restoration and renovation. In particular at what is required to resolve or at least minimise damp.


1st Public Meeting



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Project Team Meeting with Acanthus Clews

Project Team Meeting with Acanthus Clews

Acanthus Clews ArchitectsThe Project team has meet for the first time with Acanthus Clews’ David Spragg and Henry Sander. The purpose of the meeting was to establish a working relationship; discuss any progress since the appointment of Acanthus Clews as the Conservation Architects for Project St Mary’s; and to determine the next steps. The meeting was held in St. Mary’s church, Aldermaston on 7th March 2018.



  • Conservation reports on the Forster Tomb and Plaster Plaque by Cliveden Conservation were shared.
  • The diagrams produced as the results of the Building Survey by Global Surveys were shared. These diagrams detail all the dimensions of the building and the placement of permanent objects e.g. pulpit, pews. They will form a key part of any core documentation given to other contractors and will be constantly referred to when making any decision regarding the fabric of the church. When these diagrams are combined with the 2014 Topographical Survey we have a complete measurement of the building and site.

Next Steps:

  • Project team to revisit the needs and requirements for a new space and improved facilities on site. This document to be ready by Easter and will be the input for a Feasibility Study by Acanthus Clews.
  • Feasibility Study by Acanthus Clews. This study will result in a series of options which will be put forward to all those that are interested for discussion leading to the selection of a preferred solution. The study will take approximately 6 weeks and by ready in mid May 2018.
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Conservation Reports on Monuments

Conservation Reports on Monuments

Conservation reports on the Forster Tomb and the Plaster Plaque have been received from Cliveden Conservation.

The reports detail the history, condition and repair and maintenance needs of each of the monuments. They are formatted to comply with the Church Building Council’s Guidelines for conservation grant applications to meet the requirements for conservation funders in the future. On  Project St. Mary’s they will form part of the documentation and estimatations for the renovation of the church.

Forster TombSir George Foster and wife, Aldermaston St Marys

Extract from report on the tomb’s history:

4.2 Physical History

Little is known about the physical history of the monument. Anecdotally it is said that the arch above partially collapsed onto the monument, damaging the lower part of the effigy of Sir George Forster. The repairs undertaken to remedy the damage to his legs, as well as some remaining damage to the east end moulding is still visible, however, no documentation was found (including a trip to the Cathedral and Church Buildings Division’s library) to supply any more information on this matter, such as the date this event happened.

4.3 Significance of Monument

The monument commemorates Sir George Forster and his wife Elizabeth de la Mare. George Forster of Harpsden (near Henley) was born in 1469. In 1492 he inherited the Aldermaston estate from his wife Elizabeth’s childless brother, Thomas de la Mare, upon his death. In 1501 George was knighted by Henry VII and became Sheriff of Berkshire and Oxford in 1517. In 1525 Sir George was made a Knight of the Bath. Sir George had great wealth and influence at court and was part of Henry VIII’s entourage at the Field of the Cloth of Gold in 1520. Elizabeth died in 1526 and Sir George in 1533 and the monument is known to have been erected in the lifetime of Sir George.

Considering Sir George Forster’s wealth and apparent influence it is no surprise that he commissioned a monument from such a talented craftsman to commemorate both himself and his wife. Although it is not known who undertook the commission, there is no disputing the quality of workmanship displayed in the carving and detail, which is quite exquisite. It has been mentioned that the sculptor or mason was one Richard Parker, one of the alabaster men active at the time, but there are no records to support this theory. There is in fact only one documented tomb by Richard Parker from Burton upon Trent. That is the tomb-chest of Thomas Manners, 1st Earl of Rutland and his second wife Eleanor Paston, located in St Marys Church, Bottesford. More likely, as the composition and execution are so remarkably similar, is that the Forster monument was undertaken by the same hand as the creator of the Roos monument in the Rutland Chantry Chapel, St George’s Chapel Windsor. It certainly is very similar in style, but unfortunately the sculptor of this monument is also unknown. Incidentally, Lady Roos died in 1526, the same year as Lady Elizabeth Forster.

Plaster Plaque in Forster Chapel

Extract from report on the plaque’s history:

4.2 Physical History

The panel is a plaster-cast from the original marble relief which is on the tabernacle in the church of Or San Michele, Florence. The original was carved in marble 1352-1360 in Florence by the sculptor Andrea di Cione (1343-1368) (also known as Orcagna). The series of reliefs depicting scenes from the life of the virgin are set around the base of Orcangna’s tabernacle.

The Victoria and Albert Museum have sections of the panel that were cast in Plaster in 1864 by Stiattesi Signor. Although it is not known who cast the panel in St Mary’s Aldermaston, or how this panel came to be in the Forster Chapel, plaster casts of this type were being produced and sold in Italy towards the end of the 19th century.

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Church Inspections and Survey

Church Inspections and Survey

St Mary’s , Aldermaston

February 2018 has seen Acanthus Clews, the newly appointed Conservation Architects for Project St Marys, undertake the Quinquennial inspections for both churchs in the parish: St Mary’s, Aldermaston and St. Nicholas, Wasing.

St Nicholas' Church, Wasing

St Nicholas, Wasing


The AC team was lead by Camilla Finlay B Arch (Hons), Dip Arch, M Arch, RIBA, AABC, a Director at Acanthus Clews and was their first engagement with St Marys. The reports are eagerly await by the Project Team and the buildings committee of Aldermaston & Wasing Parochial Church Council.

Quinquennial inspections are required for Churches every five years, as is obvious from their name, and provide church councils with information on the on-going care and maintenance required for their buildings.

More information on Quinqennial Inspections can be found on the Church of England’s ChurchCare website

Also this month David Spragg of Acanthus Clews helped us select Global Surveys of Northampton to undertake a Measured Building Survey. This survey was undertaken over two days on 15th/16th February. The resulting diagrams and drawings from this survey will be taken along with the Topographical Survey from 2014 to provide the base documentation about the church structure and graveyard topography for the formulation of project plans, planning approvals and the engagement of further specialists.

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Appointment of Conservation Architect

Appointment of Conservation Architect

Conservation Architects for Project St. Mary’s

Conservation Architect's officeIn December 2017, the Project team held two days of interviews for the position of Conservation Architect on Project St Mary’s.

A Conservation Architect acts as the lead professional on a project advising the project team on design, restoration and renovation. They bring in the appropriate specialists as required  and they overseeing work by sub-contractors and specialists.

In addition to being the Conservation Architect the successful candidate will be appointed as Quinquennial Architects for the churches of St. Mary the Virgin, Aldermaston and St. Nicholas, Wasing.

Acanthus Clews ArchitectsThe team from Acanthus Clews of Banbury were selected from a shortlist of four excellent candidate firms. It was felt that Acanthus Clews bring the right level of experience and knowledge that will enable Project St. Mary’s to be successful. More information on Acanthus Clews can be found on their website.

Acanthus Clews Team for Project St. Mary’s  is:

– Camilla Finlay
– David Spragg
– Henry Sanders

The first task for Acanthus Clews will be the quinquennial inspections of the two churches in early 2018.

A kick off meeting will follow with the Project Team. This will build rapport and to start the processes to develop the case for the first round of funding, but more of this later …

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Search for a Conservation Architect

Search for a Conservation Architect

A Conservation Architect for Project St Mary’s is being sought.

architectual papers

Since early summer 2017 a search for a Conservation Architect has been underway. The Conservation Architect will be the lead professional on the project, who will work with the project team to take the plans through discover, design and onto implementation. They are also being asked to take up the role of ‘church architect’ and to produce the quinqennial report, due in 2018.

The Oxford Diocese approved list of church architects was consulted and a short-list drawn up of 7 companies. Short-listing was based on conservation accreditation, distance from Aldermaston and an internet search on the companies. An invitation document was drawn up seeking information about the companies, their experience on similar projects to Project St Mary’s, their methodology of running such a project and an understanding of the outside resources they would be able to call upon.   The 7 companies were invited to come and see the church before submitting tenders.

6 tenders were received and it was delightful to know that all 6 were highly capable and able to undertake our project. After a long evenings deliberation the project team came up with a 2nd short-list of 4 companies for the interview stage.

A four member panel will interview the candidates with the rest of the project team and two advisor sitting in as observers. The interviews will take place on 5th and 6th December 2017 and a decision on the successful candidate will follow shortly after this.

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Condition Survey of Alabaster Monument August 2017

Condition Survey of Alabaster Monument August 2017

Condition Survey in August 2017 of the alabaster monument and the wall plaque in the Foster chapel.

Sir George Foster and wife, Aldermaston St Marys

Condition Survey

Cliveden Conservation has carried out a condition survey on the alabaster tomb and the adjacent but unrelated wall plaque. The purpose of the survey is to determine the state of these artefacts and what if any restorative actions are required. This includes analysis of paint which just remains on parts of the tomb. The report is expected in early autumn 2017. The results of the report will be considered within the larger project to restore and rejuvenate the church at its facilities.

Tomb of Sir George Forster (1469-1533) and his wife Elizabeth

Tomb (1469-1533)One of the outstanding features of Aldermaston’s St Mary’ church is the large, very fine, alabaster tomb under the arch to the side chapel. It commemorates Sir George Forster K.B. and Elizabeth, his wife.  Although it has been damaged when the arch above collapsed the figures remain well preserved. Sir George’s armour and his wife’s dress being very accurately and beautifully portrayed.  Originally it would have been coloured and gilded.  The little dog tugging at Lady Forster’s skirt is interesting and is said to be a sign of fidelity.  Below is a series of figures.  These may represent the children of Sir George and his wife and possibly other members of the family, or may be simply “weepers”.  Traces of colour are still visible here.


Wall Plaque

Possible Italian plaster plaque

The wall plaque is a bit of a mystery. It is thought to be a plaster replica of a wall plaque or an altar front. Probably collected by aristocracy upon their Grand Tour in the 17th and 18th centuries. This is pure conjecture and we await to see if the report provides any further details.

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Treatment of plaster behind NW wall paintings July 2017

Treatment of plaster behind NW wall paintings July 2017

Treatment to stabilise the plaster on which there are special Medieval and Reformation wall-paintings was undertaken in July 2017.

As part of the Church of England ‘100 Treasures‘ initiative, the conservationist Peter Martindale returned to St. Mary’s. He secured the plaster work behind some of the wall-paintings. This follows up on the recommendations Peter made in his 2016 report on the condition of the wall-paintings.

Treatment was to an area at the west end of the north wall of the church, up to the second window, where there are Medieval and Reformation wall-paintings. These wall-paintings had been identified in Peter’s report as being in danger of further deterioration and possible loss if remedial action wasn’t taken.

July 2017 - Scaffolding for Peter MartindaleScaffolding was required for Peter to safely access and carry out the treatment to the higher parts of the walls. It was also required to brace the specialist pressure pads Peter used to hold the wall during drying of the lime-based grouting. The special grouting is injected behind weak or flaking areas of plaster. In the picture, that looks west towards the main entrance to the church, can be seen the scaffolding structure used. The left side is just there to prevent any movement of the working platforms on the right, hence the bracing poles across the aisle.

Conclusion of Wall-Painting Survey

July 2017 Wall-painting survey

Peter concluded the week’s work by following up on his initial study of the wall-paintings by completing the survey of rest of the church. This was because of the volume and extent of the wall-paintings in the church Peter had run out of time in his Dec 2016 assignment.

July 20917 Wall-painting survey at East end of Church

This survey involves detailing the condition of the plaster and the paint. Peter also test cleans small areas to assess the level of dirt. These cleaned patches can be seen throughout the church if you look closely enough. We are expecting Peter’s second report on the wall-paintings later this summer

We are expecting Peter’s second concluding report on the wall-paintings later this summer. This will give us a complete record of the condition of wall-paintings in the church and an accompanying action list for the major restoration work, that will eventually include the cleaning of all wall-paintings.

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Article for Parish Annual Report

Article for Parish Annual Report

New building

The progress with the new building has continued to be delayed due to discussion with Praxis, the owners of the Manor House.


In contrast. good progress has been made with the restoration work. On this front, we continued to work with specialists in restoration and renovation of old protected churches.


Environmental Study

Tobit Curteis and colleague collecting measurements

Firstly during Spring 2016 we engaged with Tobit Curteis to undertake an environmental study covering matters such as temperature, humidity and air movement and subsequently this April to advise on restoration planning and appropriate experts.


Following on from this, arrangements have been made with Peter Martindale (who produced a report in 2015 on the church wall paintings) to undertake restoration work starting this June. In terms of funding we are still using our previously raised start-up funds  and most of the immediate work to be undertaken will be funded by the  “100 Church Treasures’’. Funding for the major restoration and new building works will need to be raised once more detailed plans have been produced.


Ian Cave – Chairman – Project St Marys

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Environmental Study – Nov 2016

Environmental Study – Nov 2016

Analysis of the environment in and outside the building.

Tobit Curteis Associates have been commissioned to undertake an environment study of the church building. This study is critical for taking Project St. Mary’s forward. Understanding the environmental conditions in and around the building will be a key input to planning conservation activities.

This study is part of the 100 National Treasures  initiative from the Church of England that will help us conserve the wonderful wall-paintings in the church.

Tobit Curteis and one of his colleagues visited the church on 21st November 2016 to take measurements and seek evidence for their report.

The report is due in early 2017

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Impact on Heating system choice

This environmental study will provide information that will help drive a decision for a new heating system. There are many choices for a modern heating system to upgrade the current old radiators. But the decision is not simple because there several conflicting requirements:

  • how to keep people warm
  • how to keep the costs of heating low
  • how to protect our wonderful artefacts from further damaged
  • how to help reduce damp









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