Six months ago, the congregation of St John’s Episcopal Church in Girvan held the last service in the 150 year old building, and now hold services in another local church. 2 years before the closure, they had obtained specialist survey reports highlighting the wet and dry rot evidence in the tower roof over the chancel, and recommending £30K remedial treatment. The probable rot conditions had been identified 8 years earlier in the quinquennial inspection report but had not been further investigated or treated, due to the funds available to the very small congregation. The church is not listed and did not attract interested grant funders and so members sadly accepted they could not continue to occupy a building with a major defect.
St John’s is of solid, stone traditional construction, but the building was never completed, with transepts not constructed and the tower did not have it’s spire and was finished with a flat roof. The church is large and had been built to serve a congregation of more than 200, and the interior had some detailed and beautifully carved timber elements in the pulpit , organ and rood screen.
It is fortunate the congregation had taken the decision to move, as suddenly without warning, there was a catastrophic collapse of the tower roof into the chancel. The weather was not extreme, but there had been several weeks with heavy showers and it is apparent the rainwater outlets were so blocked that the roof was retaining a quantity of water inside the parapet. The perimeter parapet gutter timbers were weak with rot and gave way under the weight, breaking cleanly away from the tower stonework and falling in as a whole intact plane of roof. The dark roof timbers had been exposed to the interior and no significant presence of rot fungus could be seen, however once fallen, the damage of wet and dry rot to the joist ends and eating into the core of the timbers was remarkable.
Thankfully the chancel was no longer in use and furnishings had been removed after the church closure and damage has been minor in comparison to what might have happened. Steeplejacks have removed a few loosened stones at the top of the tower wall and structurally the tower is sound – but roofless. The church property is to be marketed for a re-development opportunity and in the meantime is very well ventilated.