St Jude's Church finally gets its cockerel weathervane back
- Credit: Michael Eleftheriades
Five years after St Jude's Church lost its weathervane during Storm Barney, the famous old building has a replacement looking out over Hampstead Garden Suburb.
The weathervane was replaced after months of planning, and a blessing ceremony outside the church marked the occasion on July 8.
Like the original, the new feature also has a cockerel mounted on it.
During the blessing, Father Alan Walker made biblical references to the wind.
He said that on Pentecost the apostles heard “a rushing mighty wind” from heaven, and elsewhere St John saw angels “holding the four winds of the earth”.
The need to replace the weathervane, because the Sir Edwin Lutyens building is Grade-1 listed, was itself a blessing in disguise - as work to plan the replacement revealed serious structural issues in the church tower's brickwork.
Engineers found the tower was unsound, and the church is in the midst of raising the £60,000 it needs to do necessary restoration work.
Engineer Robin Sims planned the project and even physically helped install the new weathervane.
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He told the Ham&High: “You have to work it out as you go”, he said. “I’m a machinist and I’m learning on the job. I’ve spent the last four to six months solely thinking about this [the tower].
"Every last bit has to be planned. If we go up there and we find that I’ve made a mistake and we don’t have room for the spanner to get in somewhere or when we put it together a nut fails where a screw’s got to go, then we’ve wrecked it, we’ve got to start again.”
Inside the old weathervane’s finial ball - a 52kg component integral to the original structure - they discovered a secret.
Conservation architect Margaret Davies, who also worked on King’s Cross Station, said: “We found two time capsules. One contained a tiny Bell’s whisky bottle. We believe that was put in by the contractors.
"There were photographs of four men, timber ladders and a business card from the architect Sir Edwin Lutyens' office.”
“The second time capsule was copper with a sealed end. It contained a letter written by the then incumbent, commenting on the state of the world in 1913. He was anxious about the prospect of war.”
A 2021 time capsule, containing storyboards, facemasks and the names of everyone involved in the restoration, has been stashed inside the new build.