DESPITE objections by the Victorian Society, the Consistory Court of the diocese of Blackburn granted a faculty permitting the laying of a carpet over Minton tiles in the chancel area of St Lawrence’s, Barton, a Grade II Victorian building erected in about 1896 to replace a building of 1850.
The petition for the faculty was presented by the Team Rector, the Revd Stephen Cooper and the churchwardens, who sought permission to reorder the chancel area by removing and disposing of the rear choir stalls and replacing them with the front stalls, carrying out some modifications to enlarge the leg-room available, making good any exposed tiles, and laying carpet across the widened chancel aisle to match the nave aisle carpet.
One purpose of the petition was to make it more convenient for children from the primary school in the village to use the church, and also to increase the possibilities of using the building for concerts and community events. The petitioners said that the space needed to have floor covering that was suitable for young children to sit on, sometimes for long periods, during activities or performances.
Historic England and the Victorian Society were consulted, and the former did not offer any comments. The Victorian Society did not oppose removal of the rear stalls, although they “regretted” it, but did object to covering the “handsome Minton tiles” which added character and interest to the chancel area. The Victorian Society said that removable carpet or mats could be used when children were sitting in the area.
Mr Cooper relied on health-and-safety considerations, and said that the mats suggested could slide on the polished tiles and create the potential for trips and falls, which could be worsened in their effect as they would occur at the top of the chancel steps. Mats or temporary covering would need to be removed, and there would be manual-handling risks in moving a heavy roll of carpet.
Chancellor John Bullimore said that the proposed changes to the seating would have low significance or harm to the church as a building of special architectural or historic interest. The covering of the tiling would have somewhat greater significance, but still not anything approaching moderate harm.
The reasons put forward as the justification for doing the work were convincing, the Chancellor said. “Making old buildings more user-friendly, especially for children, is much needed, and the greater general use . . . that can be made of the chancel thereby is to be applauded,” he said.
The faculty was granted, subject to certain conditions, including that any underlay was to be breathable, and not such as to cause moisture to gather; and that there were careful repairs to the Minton tiles by specialist contractors, not only where required by the alterations to the seating, but also where damage had occurred owing to age or otherwise.