Grade II*-listed St Michael’s Church at Braintree has elements of building fabric which date back 800 years. These retained elements form components of a church which has been adapted and altered during its history. The addition of the 16th Century north and south aisles and the later internal alterations by J.L. Pearson in the 1860s present a church building which has changed as the needs of the congregation have altered.
Purcell was approached to provide designs for the north and south porches. The brief for the project included the design of new north and south porches including the provision for accessible entrance by wheelchair into the church, installation of new porch gates, and installation of new external handrails to the south porch steps.
The works aimed to allow improved access into the church and the exterior church doors to remain open to allow a view into the church during services and worship. Due to the historic fabric of the church, it was important that any new additions and improvements blended seamlessly into the surrounding environment, both externally and internally. We achieved this by using materials in-keeping with the original features and selecting highly skilled, local contractors to carry out the work.
The existing entrance doors to the church led directly in from the exterior porch and the church doors were covered internally with a curtain hung from a pelmet, fixed to the church wall. The proposal installed bespoke oak timber porches with panelling to match the existing timber work within the church and glazing to the upper sections to allow a vision into the church. The existing church doors were retained and these open within the porches. To the north porch, a ramp and automatic opening doors were installed to allow ease of access for those within a wheelchair or for those who may find opening the doors difficult. By reducing draughts, the porches also help keep the church warm in the winter.
The external gates of the church porches were in poor condition through a combination of vandalism and disrepair. The proposal was to install taller gates with a fixed upper section which prevented access being gained to the porch whilst the gates were locked. The gates followed a simple design, emphasising a cross when the church gates were closed. Handrails were installed to the south porch to provide assistance stepping up into the porch, improving accessibility.