Age-old mortar to be elixir for church?

CHURCHGOERS are hoping that a recipe for mortar dating back hundreds of years will strengthen their landmark tower for many years to come.All Saints' Church, Wickham Market, near Woodbridge, was built in the 14th Century and the octagonal tower and spire, rising to a height of 137ft, is a landmark for surrounding villages and motorists on the A12.

CHURCHGOERS are hoping that a recipe for mortar dating back hundreds of years will strengthen their landmark tower for many years to come.

All Saints' Church, Wickham Market, near Woodbridge, was built in the 14th Century and the octagonal tower and spire, rising to a height of 137ft, is a landmark for surrounding villages and motorists on the A12.

The last major work was undertaken in 1978 and this involved strengthening the upper part of the tower and a complete renovation of the bells. It was hoped the repairs would provide a lasting solution but there was always the risk that there were still some fundamental problems.

Recently there has been continuing movement in the tower and it was discovered that mortar used in the 1970's had set rock hard too quickly and was not flexible enough.


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Bryan Hall, chairman of the tower appeal committee, said: ''The completion date has gone back to March. It was due to be finished last autumn but was delayed because of bad weather, the sheer scale of the project, and the need to switch at an early stage to a mediaeval mix of mortar.

''This mix is made of lime, sand and cement and it gives a steady, slow adhesion, rather than setting too quickly. We believe this mix will be more long term but it takes longer to harden and therefore more time is needed. The original mix lasted about 600 years so we are looking to repeat that.''

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The project will cost up to £210,000 and it has been given an English Heritage/Heritage Lottery Fund grant of £137,000. The scheme was given a top priority rating and was urgently required after major cracks appeared in the west facing wall. There was also extensive cracking in the ringing chamber and south facing wall.

The organisers need to raise £7,000 more to reach their target and the next major event is the return of Emma Stansfield, a former pupil of Thomas Mills, Framlingham, and the Phoenix Quartet. The four players are students at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, London, and they will perform on March 1 at 7.30pm in the church.

On March 15 there will be an auction of promises at 7.30pm in the village hall and on April 4 raconteur and accordion player Ray Hubbard will talk about his life at 7.30pm in the village hall.

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