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Priory Valedictory - 15/06/16

The Honorary Architect to the Priory for 30 years, Charles Wilson said farewell at the morning Eucharist on Whit Sunday. He and his wife Judith have moved to Bristol, to be close to their daughter and granddaughters.

Chris presented Charles with a beautiful engraved glass plate to mark the occasion, and thanked him for his work on the fabric of the Priory. Charles responded by remarking that his contribution of 30 years was but little compared to the 600 or so years the current building has existed or 1200 years that Christian stones have occupied the Castle Hill location.

As well as preparing a number of quinquennial survey reports, Charles has been associated with a number of developments and improvements.

In the early 1990’s a major re-ordering was achieved involving the creation of more space in the Nave by removing pews to the front and rear, removing the old internal porch and installing new external doors, re-lighting, removing the riddle posts and painting surrounding the high altar, lowering the floor level to create additional space, and proving a seating area along with a new credence table around the high altar. Plaster was also removed from the 4 bays in the choir and sanctuary, and the roof painted to reveal its beauty – previously it was a dull brown. Canon Maurice Bartlett instigated this work.

In the early 2000’s work was carried out to improve accessibility and associated facilities. Canon Peter Cavanagh suggested we should aim to ‘provide access from the M6 to the high altar without steps’. This has nearly been achieved and most parts of the building can now be accessed without steps, through gentle slopes involving the removal of a number of steps. An accessible toilet and baby change along with additional storage accompanied these works.

The main recent project during the incumbency of Chris has been the installation of the new organs replacing the Makin electronic instrument which had reached the end of its life. Significant structural alterations were required in the west gallery to support the new instrument, without impinging on the appearance of the gallery structure, the superstructure of which was in poor condition.

Along with the main projects, there has been constant activity with a variety of projects such as the cremated remains area, installing the new flag mast incorporating the mobile phone transmitters, new bells in the ringing chamber, the canopy and soundboard to the pulpit, [largely designed by Stephen Gardner who has done so much working with Charles], keeping an aged heating system going, attending to numerous leaks, new vicars board, votive candle stand, welcome display boards etc.,etc.

Charles feels very privileged to have had the opportunity to contribute to this very special building, and to the life of the Priory community. Even the bureaucracy associated with the faculty jurisdiction system has not diminished his enthusiasm for the place! He will miss it all, but hopes that the new church – Architect Elaine Blackett-Ord – will enjoy her involvement as much as he has.

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