Written by Sean Rawling
Our final visit of the day took us to the Grade II-listed St. Michael’s Church in Mytholmroyd (1847-1848), which was majorly affected by the Boxing Day floods of 2015. The rivers Elphin and Calder reached record heights, leaving 1.2m of water in the church and its adjacent hall, as well as causing devastation throughout the homes and businesses of Mytholmroyd. The Church still holds a relatively large congregation of between 60 and 80 people. It is difficult to imagine the heartache for those who not only lost their homes, but also their community building as a result of the flooding!
Churchwarden Eric Alston described the positive experience of their dealings with Ecclesiastical, the insurer. He explained how they were very understanding of the key issues that arise from flooding and assisted them in assuring that items such as key documents were removed for safe storage before promptly sending a loss adjuster.
Reverend Cathy Reardon, the vicar of the church, explained that although the flooding has been a traumatic experience for everyone involved, the event has allowed for them to undertake works that they had been considering and/or putting off beforehand. Under-floor heating has been installed where the pews will sit and disabled access is being installed throughout. Although the uplift of the cost of these upgrades are at the expense of the church, as insurers will not pay for betterment (even if this would help the flood resiliency of the building), some of the cost has been mitigated by the non-reinstatement of features covered by insurance that were no longer required. Indeed, our discussions focused on how insurers of historic buildings known to be at flood risk might better manage their cover, which was one of the issues identified in the 2016 Resilient York conference. Unlike new buildings, replacing damaged material like-for-like is rarely possible with historic fabric. Nor is it always good practice or economical to do so. Recent research shows that many historic building fabric, fixtures and fittings can be successfully treated for flood damage. This lessens the need for their outright replacement, which is ordinarily the insurance industry’s standard approach in such matters.
It was interesting to see first-hand a vast array of issues that we are taught in class throughout the year. This ranges from the practical elements of drying out and refitting the building, to the community and financial implications that accompany them. The church and local community should be commended for their ability to turn such a harrowing event into a positive opportunity to upgrade their building and ensure its continued use for future generations. Works are scheduled to be completed over the summer, 2017.
The YCAA would very much like to thank the stewards, churchwardens, contractors, the Reverend Cathy Reardon of St. Michael’s Church and, above all, Richard Storah for organising such a wonderful day and being so welcoming of us. Thank you.