Need a church extension...we'll build it ourselves

A TEAM of volunteers have helped save their church more than £100,000 by pulling on their hard hats and building the church extension themselves. The group – who all attend St Mary s Church in Buckden – includes civil engineers, a builder and a couple of

A TEAM of volunteers have helped save their church more than £100,000 by pulling on their hard hats and building the church extension themselves.

The group - who all attend St Mary's Church in Buckden - includes civil engineers, a builder and a couple of pilots - most of them retired. This week saw the project reach a milestone as the first phase was neared completion - the new floor.

Because the medieval church has irregular walls (12 inches out of plumb along one) and the job is risky and tricky, the church was turned down by 20 contractors for the job. It was then quoted such high sums by three others firms that the group decided to do the work themselves.

Putting in the floor - now almost finished - involved taking down some of the ancient buttresses and rebuilding them.


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Spokesman Peter Brittain, a civil engineer, told The Hunts Post: "We have been working for two and a half years doing the preparation, putting in foundations and drains but because there has been nothing to see, people keep asking us: 'When are you going to start?'

"This is why we are celebrating because at last we have something to show. We couldn't justify to our fundraisers spending such huge sums on the floor. I worked as a civil engineer costing projects for 30 years and I know what things should cost."

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Even with the volunteer team doing the labour, working at times up to eight hours a day, three or four days a week, the current phase of the project is costing £200,000. It will give the church a meeting space, a hall, a kitchen and two sets of lavatories, including one with disabled access.

The extension will be on a narrow strip between the church and Buckden Towers which is next door.

Mr Brittain, 63, is one of the youngest of the group, which also includes Robin Gibson, in his 70s, and Ken Gray, 65 who both, like Mr Brittain, worked for Kiers, and former RAF pilot, David Paul, 68. Richard Noble, 70, is a former civil engineer who was also a bursar at Ridley College, Cambridge, Robert Shepard , 62, who runs a property management company and Barry Priest another RAF pilot who orchestrates the fundraising.

They are helped on the team by Robert Bylett, 21, and when they need professional work, builder Steve Pell and his assistant Andy Plumber.

Mr Brittain said: "We are not allowed under the planning permission to build anything that can be seen from the road, so we have squeezed the development between the church and Buckden Towers and the space is a maximum of three and a half metres wide. The project is quite a challenge and there are high risks but it is very satisfying."

The overall project to provide the church's community rooms will cost £500,000. The money has been raised with a Living Stones Appeal with fundraising projects including concerts and dances. The volunteers have formed a company called Buckden Living Stones Construction Limited so they can manage the project. The team has been helped by professional builder, Steve Pell and the architect is church architect, David Joy from Cambridge.

INFORMATION: A fundraising barn dance for Buckden's Living Stones Appeal takes place at Buckden Millennium Village Hall on Friday, November 21. Tickets are £10 adults, £7 children including a ploughman's supper.

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