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15 September 2012
St Johns Vestry
Ladies Orchestra at St John’s Vestry
St Johns St Helena

Sharon Henry, SHBC

St John’s Vestry at the top of Jamestown has been quietly undergoing interior refurbishment works.  The red stone structure is a listed building and the National Trust has been contracted by the Ladies Orchestra to realise their vision of having a place to practice and hold recitals.  Darren Cranfield and Tom Wortley have undertaken the works.  The main feature of the building is the cast iron, lattice framed large casement windows.  They were previously covered with chicken-wire to keep birds out.  The windows were dismantled, wire-brushed and painted with red oxide.  The final touch was the pain-staking task of fitting 520 panes of 5 inch glass to replace the chicken-wire.  “It took a while, eight to ten days to do the windows,” stated Tom.

“We’ve been told it used to be a dance hall before days in the 1930’s,” said Darren.  “Then it was a school after that,” added Tom, “and then it was just used as a rehearsal room.  But it was in a really bad state when we started.  The roof was leaking and water had stained the floor, the windows were stuck and there was a boulder through the wall.  We started with the windows, we put on a new corrugated roof and re-pointed the walls where there were cracks.”  The old teak floorboards are now being rejuvenated with a varnish stain.

The hall is about 10x12m with windows on the east side.  At the back of the room a small stage has been erected.  “There is storage space under the stage for our instruments,” revealed Ivy Ellick, a Ladies Orchestra member.  “We have sunk all our funds into that building because we had nowhere to practice.  We came up with this idea of looking around the town.  And we saw the vestry and made a deal with St James’ church council, if we would renovate the place as far as our funds would go, we could use it.  The boys really did well with the work.  All we want to do is make it habitable and keep it clean and clutter free.

We hope to move in pretty soon.  But we are not being selfish because it is for the community to use.  We are now looking to outfit it with chairs and have written off to various overseas organisations for help.”

St Helena Island news archive for September 2012




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