Saving what’s left

The crumbling St. Joseph Parish Church.

by Donna Sealy

With the pending demolition of the centuries old St. Joseph Parish Church more than two months away, every effort is being taking to ensure that its artefacts are saved.

Chairman of the Barbados Diocesan Trustees project committee, Henry Taylor, said today that while they were yet to determine exactly how they would go about it, the committee was looking at working with the Barbados Museum.

“We recognise the historical nature of the church and there’s going to be every attempt to save those artefacts, apart from the fact that there are some things in the church that will obviously be reused or we’ll look at reusing, or storing for use, things like the pews and the pulpit, those are things that we intend, we expect, to use in the new church,” he said in an interview with Barbados TODAY.

He noted that they have yet to determine how the other things inside the building, such as plaques mounted along the walls, would be saved.

“There’s a suggestion that you probably have a memorial wall where you can construct something that the plaques can actually be planted and there are a number of suggestions that are coming up. We’re also looking at working with the museum to see if they’re any aspects of anything that may be coming out of there that we cannot necessarily use back in the church that we can probably have them with the museum.

“There are no definitive decisions that have been made, we just know that we’re going to preserve them and whatever is the best possible way of being able to do so we will. For argument’s sake there’s also some possible discussion that the Celtic Cross, on top of the church, we may be able to reuse that in the new construction but it’s still too early to be saying definitely this, that or the other,” he explained.

A time line has been set for no later than the second week in December to begin demolition, Taylor said, as the deconsecration (transferring a building from sacred to secular use) has to take place first. That should happen at month end.

The demolition work also has to go out to tender.

“We have to be careful because of the fact that we understand that part of the roof is asbestos so you know we have to handle that with care. We’ve had discussions with the EPD on that issue already and so there’s a process involved and part of what we find it necessary to do is there’s the possibility that when we’re doing the demolition that it will most likely involve the public with the use of the road. It has to be planned and we have to make sure we keep everybody informed and that we do it in a way that’s safe,” said the Project Committee Chairman.

Taylor noted that the engineers had advised them that the church which is in Horse Hill, was sitting on a slip plane and given that it is located in the Scotland District there has been and would be movement from time to time. He said they had looked at carry out repairs when the crack first started to appear, which was around the same time as Tropical Storm Tomas in October 2010.

“Subsequently, we had some heavy rains in December/January and we asked the engineer to look again to see [what had happened] and he said yes there was even further deterioration with those rains. Clearly what is happening is that the water is getting into the clay in the area and causing that slip lane to be active. The church is part of that area so that any attempts to repair the church obviously don’t make sense unless you actually solve the underlying problem and that is the slippage in the plane that’s going on.

“Since the cracking has become so bad, it wasn’t safe not only for persons using the church but eventually it would become unsafe if you’d stop using the church and you leave the building standing there’s still the possibility that you could hurt people or somebody could get injured with the building falling at some point in time, because as long as the slippage is continuing the building will deteriorate further and it becomes dangerous,” he explained.

Taylor noted that there was also some cracking in the graveyard close to the church and a few graves had been affected.

One of the houses on the eastern side had also been impacted with the slippage.

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