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A chance to see Newport Minster as never before

John Bailey, Director of Thomas Ford & Partners Chartered Architect Practice, is surveyor of the fabric to Rochester, Wakefield and Guildford Cathedrals as well as Inspecting Architect to many parish churches and is a three times winner of the King of Prussia’s Gold Medal for the repair of historic churches.

He is currently working on the scheme to restore St Thomas a Becket and St Thomas the Apostle’s church (Newport Minster), a grade I listed building of national historical and architectural significance.

The Newport Minster is one of the partners in the HSHAZ Cultural Consortium for Newport, a group of organisations partnering to bring cultural regeneration to the High Street. Funding from Historic England via the Arts Council is enabling two years of cultural activities in the Island’s County town including a Children’s Festival, markets, art installations, art workshops and the establishing of a cultural hub in Newport.

As part of the painstaking work, the public will have a chance to see the Minster as never before as a result of hard hat tours, demonstrations and lectures.

“The onsite demonstrations will allow us to explain what the craftsmen are doing and why. We will be concentrating on various aspects of the building and in the South Aisle we will be looking at the stained glass and leaded lights.

“There will be some re-leading work and the stained glass window will go away for repair. When it comes back there will be an opportunity to see it close up before it is reinstated.

“We are working with very skilled professionals. Many of the larger cathedrals such as Salisbury, Wells and Canterbury have their own stained glass studios.

“There is a huge skills shortage for this type of work and we hope that by offering these demonstrations and a chance to see the work they do, we might encourage some people to decide this would be a good career for them.

“Volunteers will have the opportunity to help our conservators as they clean two memorials, the Hawsey memorial, which was relocated from the Mediaeval church into the chapel and the Princess Elizabeth memorial. They can get involved,working alongside the conservators who will be taking away the worst of the muck and dirt.

“We will also be carrying out major work on the roofing and masonry including the big pinnacle at the back and people will be able to see as that goes back into position. We have agreed there will be an opportunity for small groups of people to go up to see the slate roof. We will be removing old damaged tiles and replacing them with natural slate from Wales.

“We get into full swing with this work in March and there will be a number of days available to visit including a Saturday.

“In the second phase of work, people will have access while we remove the floor in the nave. When the floor is dug up, people will be able to see what is underneath and we might be able to see evidence of the early Norman church.

“When the work is completed and both phases are completed, the building will have a sustainable future. We are not here to create a museum but rather to create a living building for worship and community use.

“We encourage the people to come and see what we are doing – it is something that has happened at a number of the projects I have worked on.

“We hope that people on the Isle of Wight enjoy getting to see aspects of the building they would not normally get to see.”