Amanda Aiano Zilberstein
St Augustine’s is one of those treasures among London churches, a church that is part of London’s vast metropolis and yet nestles in its own idyllic rural pocket, giving the visitor the strongest impression of having entered another world. AIANO is fortunate to encounter many of these hidden treasures in the process of making and fixing traditional church window guards for the capital’s churches.
St Augustine’s church is a grade II listed building, constructed in 1872-3 and designed by William Oakley. The church is located in a nature reserve known as One Tree Hill, so named after the oak of honour where Queen Elizabeth I is reputed to have taken refreshment during a hunting trip. The church can be found by walking from Honor Oak Park station or by walking over the hill from Brenchley Gardens.
St Augustine’s church has undergone at least two rebirths in its history. The building suffered bomb damage during the Second World War, leading to restoration in the post-war period. However, the church closed for worship in 2001 only to reopen again in 2003 due to the determination and resourcefulness of the local community.
Since then the church community has grown and has undertaken a new and extensive programme of restoration work. Aiano was contacted by Bakers of Danbury Church Works department to replace some of the window guards as part of its programme of building works at St Augustine’s. Bakers of Danbury has been carrying out building and restoration work for churches in and around London and the south east since its foundation in 1878.
Aiano hand-woven traditional church window guards or weld mesh church window guards
As a first step, Aiano engineers went to the church to take templates of each of the window lights which comprised a number of lancets and circular porthole windows. The existing window guards at the church were in poor condition – made from pre-fabricated weld mesh without even the benefit of a frame, jagged wires protruded in a crude approximation of the shape of the window.
The jagged wires represented a potential health & safety hazard, lack strength and are also ugly, spoiling the look of this lovely late-Victorian church.
Weld mesh can be a good material for traditional church window guards if properly fabricated to the correct shape and with the benefit of a frame and powder coating. Sometimes there are good reasons for using welded mesh guards, for example, to match other guards already installed at a church, or where the thickness of the mesh is an important consideration. However, in our view wherever possible hand woven mesh is the preferred option particularly for Victorian and older churches.
Certainly for Victorian churches, hand woven mesh is the most historically accurate solution since this is the material that would have been used when the church was built -whenever guards were necessary. After all, AIANO has been making traditional church window guards from hand-woven mesh using much the same techniques since 1860.
But even for churches built before the Victorian era, we would argue that woven mesh is the best solution. Woven mesh guards are longer lasting and have a natural hand-crafted beauty that is more in keeping with the fabric of the church – beautiful stonework, brickwork, iron and stained glass. In addition, hand woven mesh guards are stronger than weld mesh and last longer. Nowadays the majority of our guards are made from stainless steel which means that the lifetime of the guards is extended and there is no risk of discolouration to beautiful stonework or brickwork.
But whether you choose woven or welded mesh guards for your church, the most important thing is that each guard should crafted to fit each individual window perfectly in order to be as strong as possible and as inconspicuous as possible.
AIANO uses traditional materials and methods of manufacturing for its traditional church window guards and window guards for heritage buildings that have been developed over more than 150 years.
AIANO engineers returned to St Augustine’s to install the new guards using our signature invisible fixing method which means that the fixings are barely noticeable from the front of the guard. This is another of the techniques used by AIANO to ensure that the guards are as inconspicuous as possible.
If you share our passion for London’s hidden churches please have a look at another of our leafy church stories – featured in our blog article about St. Peters-in-the-Forest with its romantic churchyard nestling in an outcrop of Epping Forest.