St. Mary's Jubilee Arch

 

Four years ago the Wymeswold Young Farmers raised funds to restore the gates at the Church Street entrance to Saint Mary’s churchyard. Knowing that in the 19th century, there existed a wrought iron archway and gas lantern over these gates; I was inspired to recreate this arch for the Wymeswold community.

The major issue was that of the existing street light which stands adjacent to the gates and would conflict with my plans. Three years ago I consulted the Leicester County Council Highways Lighting Department and they agreed that this street lamp could be removed, to be replaced by an approved lantern on top of the proposed arch. Better still, this lantern, if supplied by them, would be adopted in perpetuity and powered from the existing electrical source. The lamp in this lantern will be a state of the art 45 watt bulb and will have the ability to be focussed where the light is most needed. i.e. up and down Church Street and not into adjacent resident’s windows. It will also have a back beam along the public footpath towards the church porch; a pathway that has always been poorly lit yet is the disabled access to the church.

Planning permission proved a hurdle because this project did not fall into any of the normal Planning Department boxes. Planning permission was finally achieved early this year thanks to the efforts of Susan Crinage who, with Jo Ling had joined the team.

We needed to source a blacksmith who could build the arch. We had ideas of our own but needed a design. An old photo of the original showed it to be a simple band of iron but we thought something more elaborate would be appropriate. Last year the primary school was involved and the children invited to come up with some ideas. Being the year of the Queens jubilee and the London Olympics, these events were also used to inspire the artwork. Our blacksmith of choice, David Tucker, has a flamboyant approach and presented us with 2 options. We decided on a compromise and incorporated the best features of both.

The existing gate posts needed to be able to support the proposed arch which is significantly heavier than the original. We enlisted the services of the stonemason who has carried out the recent re-pointing and stone repairs to the church.

The existing street light will be replaced by a “mini feeder pillar” on the churchyard side which is little more than a lighting department junction box. The electrical cable will run from the lantern down the arch through one of the 3 hollow uprights, through the gate post, to be totally enclosed within the stonework to the mini feeder pillar.

It has taken many months and there have been a number of setbacks but the arch has finally been built and installed. As the requirement for street lighting is continuous and there is no part time lighting on this corner, the existing street light had to be removed the same day as the arch was lifted into position.

My original estimate of the cost was woefully short of the mark and I’m very grateful for the financial support of the Wymeswold Garden Walkabout committee, the Parish Council, the Church Appeal fund and the Leicester Community Forum all of whom have made significant contributions.

Jon Charley

Photos of the erection of the Jubilee Arch at the Church Street entrance to St. Mary's Church, taken by Carole Charley.