Historic Churches 2019

36 BCD SPECIAL REPORT ON HISTORIC CHURCHES 26 TH ANNUAL EDITION TEATIME and TOILETS Jonathan Taylor H ISTORIC CHURCHES and chapels which remain in use are community meeting places. Those meetings may be for the primary purpose of worship or, as is the case of a growing number of places of worship, for a variety of other community events too. In either case, serving refreshments may be desirable but providing toilet facilities should be considered essential, whether for those attending a wedding, a concert or an ordinary Sunday service. For the elderly and the less able, the lack of toilets nearby can make a visit to their church an uncomfortable venture. Parents with small children may also be discouraged from attending a long church service where there are no loos. Why then do not all places of worship have the appropriate facilities? The reality is that most historic churches predate the introduction of the modern flushing WC, often by hundreds of years. Today, unless there is a dedicated church hall nearby, introducing the facilities we need usually poses two challenges. Firstly, there is the question of design: where do we place the facilities in a way that is relatively discreet and does least harm to the character and significance of historic fabric? And secondly how do you install the necessary drainage or septic tank? Many places of worship are surrounded by burial grounds, and excavating a trench for the services required might disturb buried remains and any archaeological evidence associated with the site. Such problems are rarely intractable, but both issues have to be approached carefully. DESIGN ISSUES The least invasive solutions are often the most compromised, but sometimes they work very well. At their simplest, facilities for making and serving teas, washing up the cups afterwards and storing the crockery can all be accommodated within a single large cupboard. If neatly designed to reflect the construction and detailing of pews or other furnishings, even a couple of large cupboards can have minimal impact on the character of the interior. The provision of a small kitchen sink or a toilet will depend on there being both a water supply and a drainage system, or on the practicalities of introducing the services required. Where there is neither, some rural churches have introduced small composting toilets in the grounds of the church. Also known as ‘dry earth closets’, these are among the least invasive solutions, with no connection to either mains drains or a septic tank. In Canada these are commonly found in national and provincial parks, but they are rare in the UK, and on a warm summer day the smell New toilets designed by Conservation PD for St Mary’s, Hornsey Rise, London (above and below), in what was the north aisle The toilets are screened from the nave by the full height partition in the left arch. (It had previously been partially infilled like the arch to the right.) The entrance is the door on the left. (Photos: Eleni Makri, Conservation PD)