The Church of St Mary the Virgin, Park Street, Devizes, dates from the Norman times and is one of the most important buildings in the town, with the church tower a particular landmark. The building is listed Grade I, putting it amongst the top 2.5% of listed buildings in the country.
UPDATE January 2021
As this initiative to regenerate St Mary’s into a valuable community asset moves closer to becoming a reality, there are a number of ways that volunteers can become involved in deciding and implementing what is delivered. These are the practical issues than can benefit from the experience of others.
The key topics include:
Promotion of St Mary’s In order to fulfil the opportunities provided by a re-vitalised church, the need is to raise the profile of this unique event space. To make it part of a local centre of excellence that is Devizes town. The response to Covid-19 has shown that Devizes thinks and acts as a dynamic entity for the whole local area. Just think of the many other innovative projects in place and the huge number of groups promoting and supporting all aspects of life. These opportunities are highlighted by the plans for the Assize Courts; by the excellence of the performers brought to the town by the Devizes Arts Festival; the breadth of offerings by the Devizes Food and Devizes Beer Festivals, as well as all the activities initiated by the hugely popular Devizes Outdoor Celebratory Arts group
Project Funding – we need to meld professional services and volunteer effort to ensure we can deliver the cash. Funding needs to be sought from a wide range of sources - both national funding bodies, locally based businesses and individuals.
Ongoing venue funding Ensure the Business Plan for the first five years is robust and can be delivered. Are the fundamental assumptions of capital funding and rate of growth to performance target achievable.
Sweetland Organ The organ has to be removed for successful refurbishment and re-built in its new location.
Zero Carbon Great care needs to be taken in considering the eco agenda. This is a balance of cost and benefit, for example deciding the source of heating source.
Archaeological investigation When the floor of the church is removed there will be the opportunity of helping the professional archaeologist with excavating and recording exactly what is found.
Lease details. We have a draft document lease between the Parochial Church Council, which owns the building and the St Mary Devizes Trust, which will operate the venue. This has been drawn up by the Salisbury Diocese on behalf of the PCC. They are both charitable organisations and so care has to be taken in getting it right.
Planning of interior fitments:
Lighting and sound to ensure that the needs of professional performers, presenters and other users are satisfied with appropriate hardware and flexibility in both the nave and chancel.
Basic fixtures, including blackout provision, fire safety, staging and seating.
Electrical and IT services including the security system, video provision, broadband connectivity
Kitchen equipment having regard to the kitchen’s role in the final preparation for event food, we need to ensure we can be provide what is needed.
UPDATE December 2020
Encouraging words from the Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC)
Our Church conservation architect, Chedburn Codd, continues to provide the DAC with information supporting the exciting plans for the future of St Mary’s. In a communication from the DAC received earlier in December we received very positive comments; “This is an exemplar re-ordering scheme. The DAC committee were impressed by the detailed consultation checklist and the applicant’s answers. All appropriate documentation has been submitted.”
We know there are a number of more minor points still to be agreed but answers to these will become clearer as more detailed work is undertaken.
One thing we are all interested in is “what’s under the floor?” and a summary of the work done by ContextOne can be found below. As far as the new external build is concerned it seems likely that a series of narrow supporting piles will provide the foundation for the steel structure of the extention, which will have the minimum impact on the archaeology of the churchyard. While inside the Nave the report helps in the design of the retractable staging and the new flooring.
Work is now going on in evaluating what and how heating should be provided in the church. Noting that the Bishop of Salisbury, Nick Holtam, is the Church of England's lead bishop on Environmental Affairs. He said: “Synod has set an ambitious target for the whole Church of England to respond to the urgency of the Climate Crisis by setting a ‘net zero’ target for 2030”. We have the challenge and opportunity of addressing these issues right now.
One major expense will be the refurbishment of the historic 1855 Sweetland pipe organ as it is moved to its new location in the south west corner of the nave, very close to its original position on a gallery under the west tower. The last major work on this instrument was carried out in 1979.
What’s under the floor in St Mary’s?
Archaeological investigations in preparation for the renovation project.
As part of meeting Planning Condition 8, Context One Heritage & Archaeology recorded the excavation of twelve trial holes and two boreholes at the Church of St Mary the Virgin, New Park Street, Devizes, Wiltshire in November 2020
St Mary’s is predominantly a combination of early 12th and later 15th century work, and must rank as one of the most important medieval Wiltshire churches. In the 17th century the chancel was probably re-roofed and in the 18th century a new gallery added, along with significant work to ‘beautify’ the churchyard in conjunction with several phases of levelling; this may explain the absence of pre 19th century burials. The 1854 restoration saw a succession of “improvement’s”, which included the removal of the box pews and galleries, replacing the pews and flooring, the installation of a central heating system, and construction of a vestry on the north side.
We are delighted to report that Planning Application 20/03841/FUL has been approved subject to a number of conditions about the detail of the materials to be used, other regulatory approvals that wil be required and the protection of the significance of the building. This is the permission required for the external building that will provide, toilets, meeting room, offices and a small kitchen. What we are doing to meet these conditions can be downloaded here.
The next step is to present this information to the DAC for their Formal Advice to the Chancellor of the Diocese of Salisbury.
After long consultations between Chedburn Codd - the St Mary’s Church Architect - and Wiltshire Conservation, Historic England, Wiltshire Diocesan DAC and other consultees, we have arrived at a design for the new build that seems to be acceptable to all parties. For a PDF of plan view of the proposed external build click on link. As part of the regeneraton we will provide disabled access to all entry doors via the south entrance, as the west approach has too steep a gradient. The Grade 2 gates will be refurbished, subject to the relevant approvals and permissions, to ensure a welcoming appearance to the facility.
While the facilities that this new design provides are not as wide ranging as the original cloister concept, we do feel they would support the new uses envisaged for the church.
Together with the drawings, there are a large number of documents that support this application and they are available below. You can read them or downloaded them, but bear in mind some of the files are rather long and could be up to 5Mb in size.
This suite of documents has been uploaded to the on-line DAC Faculty Application website in preparation for the next DAC meeting as we ask them for” Formal Advice”.
Tony Scorer 12 November 2020
The budgetary cost for the internal changes, external building and professional fees, excluding fittings and equipment, is of the order of £1.5M
Planning Application Documents
Documents supporting the planning and faculty applications are listed in this table. Also available are the letters received following a meeting at St Mary’s in October 2019.
Click on the link to download, please note these documents are in .pdf file format to ensure Norton does not question the website!
Download Executive Summary – Chedburn Codd
Download Business Plan descriptive document - StMFG
Download Business Plan spreadsheet - the numbers - StMFG
Download Conservation Management Plan - StMFG
Download Historic Building Assessment - Matthew McMurray. A textual document
Download Historic Building Assessment – Figures - Matthew McMurray, warning a very large file.
Download Building Investigation – Demaus Building Diagnostics Ltd
Download Ecological Assessment – St Mary’s Church July 1917 - Ecological Surveys Ltd.
Download Archaeological Evaluation Report (Trial Pits) – Headland Archaeology Ltd
Download Study St Mary’s Churchyard – burial activity - StMFG
Download St Mary Devizes – Levels of Change - StMFG
Download Statement of Need- StMFG
Download Statement of Significance – StMFG
Download Heritage, Design & Access Statement Chedburn Codd
Background information to the recent design update
Download Comments on the letters received from the CBC, DAC HE re plans of Oct 2019. The comments come first, then the letters with paragraph numbers.
Thanks to our Supporters
We wish to thank all the members of the public who continue to support us, and those wonderful event organisers who have choosen to use St. Mary for their shows and meetings. A special mention must go to The Invitation Theatre Company (TITCo) who had put on major shows for a number of years to sell out audiences, not least the recent " The Armed Man", 'Sister Act' and the classic 'War of the Worlds'.
TITCo have continued to use St Mary's for singing rehearsals and have posted a YouTube video, which can be downloaded here. TiTCo recording.
The aim is to take St Mary's from a closed building to a much visited asset to the town instead of merely an interesting background view.