I am pretty excited about the tower. I had not been up, partly because someone fell leaving a hole in the ceiling beside the attic hatch but mostly because someone fell putting a gash in their leg. Cam, our trusted inspector, had taken a look and expressed concern that he could see light through the walls, meaning the brickwork was leaking. Wood being exposed to dampness over time is never a good thing. He shared that one option we should consider is taking the tower down. I wanted to avoid that because I think the tower has a lot of architectural appeal. And how cool is it that we have a tower!
Once we finally got possession of the church, one of the first things I wanted to do was get up into that tower. I had resisted before partly because I did not want to damage the church before it belonged to us. I purchased a respirator, the kind that sucks to your face when you breathe in and filters the air through two cartridges. I set up the ladder my kids bought for me two years ago when they worried about their old man climbing his hand-me-down ladder. This ladder is heavy and stable. I squeezed through the attic hatch and pulled myself up. The first level had less than 6 feet of clearance. I could see the skeletons of 2 medium-sized birds and a few rodents I assumed were large mice. there was a cm of guano covering everything. I shouldn’t have been surprised; you could smell it as soon as the hatch was opened. This level had plaster walls on 3 sides, the fourth being the reverse side of the transom above the front door.
The timbers looked sound and I really wanted to keep exploring. The ladder that got me to the first level is rated to hold 250 lbs so I was confident climbing it. Now I was counting on ladders made of wood. I’m not sure they hade people of my (ahem) frame in mind. I tested the first step and it held firm. So up to the next level I went. I should have brought a flashlight because this is what I would have seen: Open rafters and a view right through the center of them to the front of the building. You could see the wall boards on the other side. I returned a few days ago with a light to take these pictures. Opposite the attic view were two small windows allowing a view of the Fall River below. Propped up in the corner was another remnant of stained glass. This was going to be a great loft space.
The first time I entered the attic this as far as I went. The respirator made breathing difficult and I was perspiring heavily. I descended back down and recovered outside sitting in a chair with a glass of water. Had I proceeded, as I did a few days ago, I would have seen the rough-hewn timber framing and wood covering the belfry doors. As I suspected, there was no bell in the tower, and I have not seen one mentioned in articles I have read about the church. From this top level was another ladder ascending to a hatch which leads to the flat roof. I did not go up this ladder. I think I’ll wait until we deal with the bats and the guano. Paul, my contractor, had counted 4 bats when he explored the attic space. I expect there are many more. We are hiring professionals to deal with the bats and their castings.
Dreamgirl has big plans for a small loft utilizing the tower and a circular staircase. She plans another, larger loft over the pulpit area. I would love to add another “secret” room above the tower loft. A room accessed through a drop down attic ladder with a large window replacing the belfry doors. I think my grandkids would enjoy that. I know their grandpa would.