In February 2022 as Storm Eunice blasted through Britain it knocked the spire from the top of St Thomas Church in Wells. The spire crashed to the ground breaking up into pieces beyond repair.
Building conservation specialists were asked to create an exact replica of the damaged spire and to repair the original weathervane. The carving of the new spire took place on the ground and once complete each section of stone needed to be lifted over 40 metres in the air so it could be securely fixed on top of the church.
Elev8’s contact lifting team were on hand using the Bronto S70XR MEWP (mobile elevating work platform) to safely lift each section of stone and provide safe work at height for members of the conservation team.
The first step for Elev8 in this restoration project was a site visit. As well as surveying the site conditions we met the client, to understand the loads and lifting operation required.
After surveying the site one of Elev8’s qualified Appointed Person’s (AP) designed the lift plan, considering the site, ground conditions, environmental conditions and of course the load itself. The lift plan is a vital document that gives the lifting team all the information they need to organise and execute the lifting operation safely. Elev8 lift plans are drawn in CAD and include berthing plans for the lifting equipment and side elevations. Our plans are drawn to perfect scale, so if something on the plan will not fit it will be flagged up at design stage.
The appropriate lifting equipment is decided during the lift planning stage. Each section of stone needed to be carefully lifted then precisely positioned whilst a conservator fixed it into place. Our Appointed Person selected a MEWP to perform the lift, providing both safe lifting of the stone and a safe platform for conservators to work above the spire. A S70XR powered access platform fitted with a 400kg cage winch was selected because it has a cage capacity of 600kg and could safely work at the height and outreach required when lifting each section of stone.
Before our lifting team even arrived on site a section of stone wall needed to be removed so that our access platform could enter the church grounds and set up. This task was very kindly done by the conservation team.
Next the Elev8 team installed ground protection using trackway, so our MEWP could safely drive into the Church grounds and set up without risk of sinking. Once the trackway was installed our experienced MEWP Operator followed the berthing plan to position the access platform, and a safe drop zone was installed around the entire lifting area. Timbers were used under each outrigger to ensure that the load was sufficiently spread.
Richard, our Senior Lift Supervisor, oversaw the lifting operation over the course of the restoration. It was Richard’s job to brief the lift plan to the project team, make sure all the safety precautions identified in the lift plan were in place and supervise the execution of the lift.
Each piece of masonry was securely attached to the cage winch, and as a secondary precaution a cargo net was used to encase each section of stone. Our MEWP Operator then smoothly lifted the work cage with stonework attached to the top of the spire over 40 metres in the air. A conservator travelled in the MEWP basket with our operator to place each section of stone on top of the spire whilst the rope access conservator fixed it into place.
“The execution of this project went perfectly from start to finish. Everything was planned to perfection and there were no hiccups. It was a pleasure working with a team of expert conservators, and to restore St Thomas’s Church to its former glory”
This restoration project attracted lots of attention in the local community and news reporters were on site every day. ITV West Country ran a news feature on the restoration, and BBC Radio Somerset filmed the very brave Reverend Claire blessing the spire from the MEWP basket. You can see footage of this on BBC Radio Somerset’s facebook page here.
Special thanks to local resident Paul for taking amazing video footage of the restoration and kindly allowing us to display some of it here so you can see our lifting team in action.
Fitted with the correct attachments, powered access platforms are perfect for performing lifting operations where precision is required. As well as safely lifting building components the MEWP cage provides a safe working platform for conservators to safely work whilst performing building restoration.
All lifting operations must be planned by an experienced and competent person with adequate training, knowledge, and skills for the task. If you don’t have this in your team it makes sense to hand over responsibility to a lifting specialist. Elev8’s in-house contract lifting team are available to assist with the lifting aspect of building restoration projects anywhere in the UK. We have access to a fleet of specialist lifting equipment and an established crane supply network across the country. If you would like to discuss your lifting project, please get in touch with a member of our team.