Church of St. Brannock, Braunton

Spire Repairs - 2002

A Grade I listed parish church in the village of Braunton noted in Simon Jenkins England’s Thousand Best Churches and has a very large nave with late 14th century roof structure* containing a significant set of 15th century oak pews* with remarkable bench ends. The practice was commissioned to undertake a comprehensive structural and archaeological assessment of the 13th century timber spire structure* prior to repairs to supporting structure and lead covering of the spire.

Following a close inspection of the lead from a rope and abseil harness it was clear that the cast lead panels were reaching the end of their life. It was also clear following initial inspections that the structure required fundamental repairs.

The oak timber frame of the spire is immensely complex, the result of many internal changes, repairs, shoring and additional bracing in its 800 year history. The structure itself had skewed having suffered most of its historic decay on the most weathered west face.

*Timber subject to dendrochronological analysis - tree ring dating.

Due to the complex nature of the structure we commissioned an accurate three dimensional survey of the structure that could digitally model the timber structure. At the same time the archaeological survey recorded the size, location, condition and joint details of each timber element. This helped identify the age of each timber and the historically important sections of timber for analyzing the impact of repair proposals.

Repairs and cleaning following an arson fire in July 2003

A fire started below the organ loft in the north transept and quickly spread into the roof filling the entire church with smoke. The resulting fire, smoke and water damage was comprehensively assessed by a team of specialists and conservators, commissioned and coordinated by the practice.

This included timber dating of the nave roof structure funded separately by English Heritage. As the church was closed for repairs and cleaning, the church took the opportunity to re-order the interior of the nave to bring the focus of the worship closer to the congregation. This could involve the relocation of some of the pews in the nave and included upgrading the heating, lighting, sound system, fire protection and security of the building. The practice introduced localised sprinkler systems to areas of the interior that were most at risk from fire in the future.

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