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New lease of life at Eastney-based church

A 115-year-old church in Highlands Road, Eastney, Portsmouth, has been given a new lease of life thanks to Gordon Colbourne from DHCS Building Surveying team.

Front elevation St Margaret’s of Scotland Church Eastney

Front elevation St Margaret’s of Scotland Church Eastney

St Margaret’s of Scotland Church, within the Diocese of Portmouth, was beset with structural issues with a leaking roof, windows in need of repair and danger of plaster falling from the ceiling.  That combined with a dwindling congregation meant it closed its doors in 2015, many feared for good.

However, a new congregation moved to the Church in 2017, initially holding services in the Church Hall.  With new community support, the Diocese of Portsmouth agreed to help make the main church building safe and usable again.  That’s where Gordon Colbourne, from Daniells Harrison Chartered Surveyors came in.

We first received an instruction in October 2016 to investigate and report on the structural integrity of the Church.  We identified there were cracks and gaps of some age but some were potentially more recent.

In order to investigate further we used an internal tower, supplied by Vemcast Ltd, that could reach heights of up to 14m. Outside, we used a truck mounted access platform with a reach of 17m, supplied by Nationwide Platforms.

Our initial report identified structural movement however we needed to investigate further to determine if this was a foundation issue.  The further investigation consisted of trial pits to determine how solid the foundations were. We extracted a soil sample for analysis, using a hand auger.  The subsoil in this area is known as brickearth.

We found that the foundations projected from the building by almost 900mm – very wide for a project of this nature. The foundations were deep and looked to be underpinned in the past to protect the building from movement.  There were roots in the trial pit coming from a nearby tree but they did not extend below the foundations of the building.

In conclusion we were able to say the foundations were adequate for the structure originally built in 1905.  The 1960s extension was well founded.  No active subsidence was determined.

Following on from that we concluded the damage, cracking and movement related to differential movement between the original church and the extension (the narthex at the Church entrance).  There was also slight weakness in the vaulted roof structure which consisted of stone vaults (arches) and a barrel shaped timber frame.

Our recommendations were to carry out structural repairs using Helifix bars – stainless steel reinforcing rods that are inserted into the masonry.  These can be inserted both horizontally and bent into place in arches to strengthen the structure.  They are grouted in place and then lime mortar and plaster finishes applied.

Having determined what remedial work was required, DHCS put together a specification for works and issued it to contractors for pricing.  Oak Services Ltd were awarded the contract.  Work commenced in November 2018 and was completed by end January 2019.  The Church opened its doors for the first time in more than three years, after it was repaired and declared safe again in February 2019.

The project was particularly special for Gordon. He grew up in the Eastney area and had his daughter baptised in St Margaret’s Church in the late 1980s.  Little did he know then he would be its saviour in years to come.

View from nave to chancel and altar. Structural repairs to church

View from nave to chancel and altar