Speech by Dorte Bille Harding, chairman of the Church Council. Held at the reception for the completion of the facade project on Sunday 2nd of September 2018.
We did it! I am sure everyone noticed the splendid look of the façade, and it will – hopefully – stay safe and sound for many years to come, ensuring nobody gets hurt by falling pieces of stone, and protecting valuable English Heritage.
Let me start by introducing the church’s building group :
We are grateful to Church Managers for overseeing the daily working relationship with DBR London – and especially for securing access permissions to the Precinct.
For those of you who don’t know much about the Danish Church in London, I would like to point out a few facts:
This is the only Danish language church in Greater London, and we run regular Church Services, as well as Christenings, weddings, confirmations etc.
In addition, the place acts like a meeting place for many Danes in London, with regular groups meeting for a wide range of reasons.
Danish cultural activities are held, such as talks, concerts, films etc, and Danish traditions are celebrated, such as midsummer festival, children’s carnival and proper Danish Christmas traditions, including the popular Lucia processions (which actually originates from Sweden).
Finally, we teach Danish language to children and adults – the children’s Saturday School tuition alone has around 120 pupils. In total The Danish Church have over 10,000 visits a year.
It has been a long journey, since that first hammer test in November 2014 proved that the façade needed a thorough renovation.
We started with a make-safe exercise, which bought us time whilst we were fundraising, but at the same time sped up the deterioration by exposing more iron cramps – and so forced us to find a long-term solution.
It soon became apparent that Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) was THE major funder for this type of project, so I started an application – and immediately realised I couldn’t finish without help. Fortunately, Boris Bogdanovich from Alan Baxter Ltd had the required expertise, and helped me secure the First Round HLF Grant, with all the complicated requirements: surveys, reports and several stages of approvals.
We had to voluntarily apply to go on Historic England’s ‘At Risk’ Register, to prove that the church is at both considered worth preserving, and in urgent need of repair. Bit risky, as the downside is an immediate obligation to fix! But it all paid off: Historic England is happy with the repairs, and the church has now been removed from the (online) ‘At Risk’ Register.
Lead Consultants for the projects have been Malcolm Fryer Architects (MFA). Malcolm and his extremely able assistant Nicole Sutton prepared the most detailed and thorough tender package, identifying each stone, and pricing each repair.
Main contractor on the project has been DBR London Ltd, and – like MFA - they have been a pleasure to work with. Always tidy and professional, cheerful and helpful.
The project was off to a slow start, due to expensive enabling works to drainage in the Precinct outside the church, which ended up costing us most of our contingency amount (15% of work sum).
The architects’ initial documentation proved invaluable when previously hidden structural weaknesses were found at high level in the turrets, posing severe danger of collapse. Restoring structural stability shot to the top priority, and many savings had to be found in the original project brief.
Together MFA, the contractors DBR London Ltd, and a team of structural engineers found a realistic way of repairing the top of the turrets. First price suggestion was £1mio, but we ended up with a reasonable solution – and the band of brand new stones is now visible, if you look carefully at the top of the turrets.
The rusty metal bands were removed, and replaced with steel supports. One damaged stone at a time was carefully pushed out, and quickly replaced by another, in a specific pattern, designed by the structural engineers. Precision work, perfectly executed by DBR and everyone involved - please admire it when you leave!
In order to make savings, we had to sacrifice some replacement of mortar with real stone, but I still think we can be proud of the result. The beautiful Bath stone façade has been steam cleaned, stones repaired where needed, all damaged mortar has been repaired, the parapets rebuilt and pinnacles made safe.
Big thanks also to ‘Heritage at Risk’ Architect Tracey Craig from Historic England, who advises HLF on building projects. She has been positive to the project from start, and approved our major last minute change of scope in record time.
Alongside the main HLF-supported project, we have taken advantage of the scaffold, and restored the church clock to working order. It has been idle for over 20 years, and after such a long time, it takes a couple of months to restore the exact balance, so you may notice it slightly out, at the moment – but Thwaites and Reed assure us it will settle down, and keep perfect time for the next couple of hundred years.
To establish access for the annual maintenance of the church clock, we have installed permanent safe access to the clock chamber, via the South turret. The old wooden ladder was completely rotten and unsafe – in fact, the lack of access was the reason why the clock stopped working back in the early 1990’s, when the electric winding mechanism couldn’t be re-started after a power cut.
The clock restoration, and repainting and gilding of the clock face and hands, have been paid for by Heritage of London Trust, and we are extremely grateful for this valuable addition to the main façade project – without their donation, we couldn’t have restored the clock. Big thanks also to Lars Skovhus, who helped secure these funds, along with other donations.
Which brings me on to the many other people involved in making the project a reality:
First and foremost a huge thanks to Heritage Lottery Fund. Tremendous support gained, granted £275k which is £25k more than normal max. The renovation couldn't have happened without this support.
As I’ve revealed before, I initially wondered why we didn't just start work in a corner, and continue till the money ran out. Seemed much easier, could use the £30k saved on surveys on getting more repairs done.
If I had had it my way, the turrets might have collapsed and people could have been killed. So thanks to HLF for procedures to avoid such disasters, by insisting on project run by accredited professional architects like Malcolm and Nicole.
Big thanks also to AllChurches Trust, and Garfield Weston Foundation for their valuable contributions at the early stages of the project, which encouraged further fundraising.
Impressive donations have been received from CF Lunøe Trust Fund and from Asta and Julius P. Justesen's Foundation - both much appreciated – and we didn’t even have to ask for them!
Further donations received from Jens Erik Sørensen from Gibraltar, Ing-Marie and Flemming Jacobs now living in Copenhagen, and from an anonymous donator from Denmark, that we don't even know the identity of!
Most grateful for all contributions.
Thanks again to Charlotte Møller and the tireless team at Reed Smith LLP, who for years have offered pro-bono legal advice. They have saved us a fortune in legal fees, and ensure we don’t inadvertently put the church’s long-term interests at risk.
Finally, Grethe Hauge, who is faithful member of the congregation, and a registered official City of London guide, has promised to conduct a range of guided tours, Open House events and a Heritage Trail after work finishes. Grethe is a fantastic source of information, so keep an eye out for these.
Please accept my apologies if I have forgotten anyone? Such a long list of contributors, in so many different way - thanks to everyone.
Along with the facade project, we have also been working on the internal building project, designed and led by CF Møller, London. It is with immense pleasure I can announce that our next projects is not only fully funded (£2.6mio), it has also been granted Full Planning Permission, as well as Listed Building Consent and approval by Crown Estate.
A lengthy process of detailed design is about to begin, and actual work will start in 2019. First step will be installation of a platform ramp to the church hall, to ease access for people in wheel chairs – this will be fitted very soon as soon as the garden is accessible again.
The façade project has had its ups and downs. It took considerably longer than anticipated. And it cost considerably more than budgeted for. But the result was worth it. Just hear what Savills, as agents for Crown Estate writes:
Following our recent site visit to the above project we (and Alan Baxter Associates), were very impressed by the high quality of repairs to the spires and surrounding areas which we are sure will vastly improve the structure for many years to come. Not to mention the improvements to the clock which I am sure will be much appreciated by the community and visitors alike.
So let’s celebrate the successful result of the Façade Project!