Drove Road Chapel: four phases of repairs and renovation identified for weather damaged listed buildings

The Biggleswade buildings and their surrounds were discussed at a meeting of the town council

Thursday, 29th April 2021, 11:27 am
Updated Thursday, 29th April 2021, 11:28 am
Biggleswade Cemetery Chapel

Four phases of repairs and renovation have been identified to weather damaged historic listed chapel buildings and their surrounds in Biggleswade

Potential funding options will need to be considered for the Drove Road Chapel site, clerk Peter Tarrant told a town council meeting.

He described a presentation to councillors by Brian Hawkins, of Hawkins Historic Limited, as "very much the start of the conversation".

Mr Hawkins was asked in March 2019 "to give us a general sense of the condition of the building and the surrounding area" said Mr Tarrant.

This highlighted "a number of permanent defects and items which needed further attention and repair," according to Mr Hawkins.

"We prepared a specification to fully repair the chapels as close as possible to their original condition, with a view to picking up any extras, including mechanical and electrical works, as part of the initial brief," he explained.

"We were then asked to consider replacement of the boundary walling and fencing encircling the cemetery.

"There was also a list compiled of other desirables, such as toilet facilities and changing the tarmac levels around the chapel to remove damp penetration from the building.

"The contract was split into four distinct areas, including the general repairs to the chapel which is basically in a sound condition.

"There was pigeon infestation in the tower, which was causing alot of damage and distress to the building.

"That was dealt with relatively quickly after the survey in March 2019," he said. "As the chapels have no heating in them that has an impact as well.

"There are roofing, guttering and window repairs, as well as general brickwork to bring back to a decent condition, and electrical and mechanical upgrades.

"We also looked at adding toilet facilities to both chapels to provide the potential for improved future use."

Security and smoke alarms are among the desirable items, added Mr Hawkins.

"We assessed the condition of the brick boundary wall which required basic repairs. The front elevation brickwork and the railings were in poor condition.

"The railings themselves aren't too bad, but the associated masonry is an issue.

"A lot of the brickwork has been replaced with all sorts of different materials. The best option is to take the whole thing out and start again.

"That leaves us with a number of elements which need subdividing as to how we're going to attack the works to the chapel, its surrounds, the cemetery fencing and the entrance gates."

Town councillor Rob Pullinger wondered whether a condition report has been produced around the chapel itself and the walls to support whatever is in the specification.

"The requirements for the wall in particular could be quite an expensive job to replace a large part of that structure," he warned.

"Are we obliged, under the chapel listing, to maintain the wall with traditional materials and methods, or could we use contemporary substances in a sympathetic style which might be better value for residents?" he asked.

Mr Hawkins replied: "The first survey didn't extend to the boundary wall.

"As far as the boundary treatment is concerned, you would have to apply for listed building consent to replace it with a contemporary material, which will be more contentious."

Town councillors went into private session to consider potential tenders for some of the initial repair work.