St Mary's, Purton
Sensitive adaptation maintains the beauty of a Grade 1 medieval treasure.
Adapting a precious ancient building for sustained use is so worthwhile. More people can enjoy it, and it lives on. Such is the case of St Mary’s in Purton, Wiltshire, where the Christian gospel has been proclaimed and explained since the 13th century.
The building is inherently beautiful, with pale limestone pillars, soft lime render, and earth-coloured medieval paintings and decoration. However, it did have its problems. It was dark and cold, with no toilets or facilities for refreshments, and it was difficult for anyone who needs level floors to get around with all the changes of level.
Now it has had new lighting, new heating, and a careful re-arrangement, creating a wide dais, which draws the eye towards a new focal point, all giving the whole space meaning and warmth. It looks so ordered and calm, with the lovely ancient wooden ribs of the roof structure, like an umbrella, folding over protectively, like the proverbial Eagles Wings of the Book of Isaiah 40 vs 31.
One modern feature is the large plate glass screens, with oak mullions and frames, which create useful rooms. They add such sparkle and reflection, which lifts the interior to a level of wonder and enjoyment above the merely practical.
This work is a credit to the client team, who worked for years with dedication and vision, managing the project, and raising the funds. It is so good that David Nettleton, chair of the client team was able to say and the opening by The Rt Revd Vivienne Faull, Bishop of Bristol, was able to say, “We now have a flexible building, able to provide traditional and contemporary worship and for the teaching of children. Thanks be to God.”