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St Mary the Virgin

Isle Abbots


St Mary the Virgin, a Grade I listed Church in Isle Abbots, was founded in the 13th century and has a fine Ham Stone 16th century bell tower with original sculpted grotesque figures or ‘Hunky Punks’. The original tower design was for pinnacles at each of the corners of the tower and smaller intermediate pinnacles in the centre of each elevation. The intermediate pinnacles on the parapet of the tower had blown off in a storm, been replaced in the 1980s only to be blown down again in the storms of 1987. The parish with backing from English Heritage wanted to replace the central pinnacles with some form of structural support and at the same time the conservation architect would oversee the conservation of the stone figures. Three solutions were proposed: provide an invisible strengthening by inserting a stainless steel grouted rod down the centre of the new pinnacle stones and if necessary post-tensioning; provide a nearly invisible strengthening by running a plate or bar across the back of the parapet to carry the wind load into the side walls or thirdly to provide a diagonal strut from the back of each pinnacle to the centre of the roof. There were three competing variables in the selection of the appropriate solution: elegant engineering, finances and damage to the historic fabric. Ultimately the third option was chosen as it was the least destructive to the historic fabric and financially viable. The struts, though just visible from the ground, are sufficiently unobtrusive.

Isle Abbots Parish Council and English Heritage : Sally Strachey Historic Conservation: Strachey and Strachey