A Melrose congregation has celebrated its return home after a six-month exile from its church due to works tackling a serious dry rot problem.
Members of Holy Trinity Church in Melrose had to leave their 165-year-old building in June last year after the discovery of a severe case of dry rot in the roof timbers.
They have spent the past six months worshipping across the road at St Cuthbert’s Catholic Church, in High Cross Avenue.
During the repair work, the carved woodwork of the church was taken down, many of the roof tiles removed, and the enormous oak beams of the roof were spliced, with steel girders installed to hold the roof up, while metal rods were drilled into the old beams and new beams attached.
The thick, Victorian lime plaster was removed from the south wall, which meant the church had to be shrink-wrapped in plastic until the work was done. However, the congregation, which returned to its home in a special evening of celebration and rededication on Sunday, now has a new challenge – to restore lost rare historic stencils, which were discovered during the emergency repair works.
Rev Philip Blackledge, Rector of Holy Trinity, who discovered the forgotten stencils, explained: “One of the interesting things to happen was the discovery of the old stencil work, intricate designs of paint which had been whitewashed over during the Second World War, when some water damage meant re-plastering had to take place, ruining the designs.
“I discovered them when going into the church at night. With the light shining in a certain direction, it was possible to make out some very unusual designs.
“Some of this has been re-instated in the redecoration, and the stencil work, which is an intricate, flowing pattern of grapes and vine leaves, will continue as a long-term project.
“Stencils were often very ‘bog standard’ and there are many books of stencilling patterns, but this one seems to be original and unusual for a church.”
Sunday night’s celebrations saw the Right Reverend Dr John Armes, the Scottish Episcopal Church’s Bishop of Edinburgh, rededicate the building to the Holy Trinity in a special choral evensong.
The event also featured the choir of St John’s Church, Edinburgh.
“It was a super evening and was very well attended,” added Rev Blackledge. “In the end we had a huge choir of about 50 people. We’d like to keep a musical tradition going at the church and it was great to see all those faces there.”