St. Francis of Assisi – Structural Repairs

Key Facts:

Client Name: St. Francis of Assisi Roman Catholic Church, Diocese of Brentwood
Location: Stratford, Newham, London
Type of client: Ecclesiastical
Services provided by M+C: Building Pathology | Building Surveying | Procurement | Project Management
Value: £430,000
Contractor: MT Build
M+C Lead: Lee Hatwell

Founded in 1770; Stratford is one of the older Catholic missions within the Diocese of Brentwood. The present church was built as a combined school for 300 children and chapel in the 1868, in a stripped Classical style with accommodation for the school on the ground floor with the church above. The church construction cost £6,000 and was undertaken by Birds of Stratford. The arrival of the Franciscan Order in 1873 meant the original dedication was changed to St Francis of Assisi. The friary was established in a pair of late Georgian houses to the rear of the church, which were extended in Gothic style in 1876 at a cost of £600. More recently the addition of the sanctuary in 1931 has a marble altar and reredos incorporating a sixteenth-century painting of St Francis by Bartolommeo Carducci.

The church was designed originally as a simple brick box in the classical style, with accommodation for the school (which now forms the the parish hall) on the ground floor and the church above. The walls are faced with yellow stock brick, with stucco ornament and some red brick banding and red brick heads to the church windows using a traditional English Bond, a slate roof completes the external fabric of the building. Whilst not Listed by English Heritage, the church and friary are locally listed and deemed to be of significant local interest and form an integral part of Stratford’s St John’s Conservation Area.

Significant long-term issues in the sub-structure/foundations of the church had ultimately weakened the entire wall and roof construction of the church chapel. A lack of remedial maintenance had then resulted in the further deterioration of the building fabric.

As a result; Munday + Cramer were appointed by the Diocese of Brentwood to undertake an inspection of the problems and develop a schedule of structural repairs with which to resolve the issues. Following the detailed investigation, the chapel wing was deemed structurally unsafe due to excessive bowing and cracks in the side wall. Temporary scaffolding props have been erected to prevent the wall from failing completely.

The detailed consultation recommended a range of structural repairs, with two walls and the roof of the chapel be rebuilt. The replacement brickwork would be constructed in solid English bond to match the existing. Additional internal bracing and improvements in the sub-structure were also incorporated in order to prevent a re-occurrence of the structural failure. In order to minimise the aesthetic impact of the works, all structural improvements were either located below ground or internally, so the exterior would remain near identical to existing.

Alongside the structural repairs, a range of internal refurbishment works were undertaken including the modernisation of the basement halls, kitchen and toilet facilities. The church was also fully redecorated, whilst the Friary benefited from a refurbishment of the reception area and the introduction of a lobby partition. To complete this extensive scheme, hard landscaping was undertaken including repairs to the boundary walls, car park and drainage, as well as the modernisation and landscaping of the prayer space.

With the structural repairs being so critical in terms of the safety of the building, the church had to be closed whilst the key work was undertaken. Despite the extent of the scheme, the works were undertaken in good time by the main contractor MT Build.