Although there is still scaffolding round the outside of St Martin-in-the-Fields, one of London\'s landmark churches on the north-east edge of Trafalgar Square, it has re-opened, marking the completion of the first stage of its Â£36million renovation and exposing the stunning Purbeck and Blue Lias limestone floors that have been re-laid by Croydon stone specialists Stonewest.
"This is a wonderful moment!" remarked the Rev Nicholas Holtram, Vicar of St Martin-in-the-Fields, when the church opened again. "After five months of church closure the building is coming back into use and it looks glorious."
The Purbeck stone used in the interiors comprises Downsvein and Inland Freestone from
St Martin-in-the-Fields is regarded as one of the country\'s finest historic churches, the masterpiece of 18th-century architect James Gibbs.
Eric Parry Architects\' master plan for its restoration has unified the site, bringing together the eclectic mixture of buildings and spaces, enhancing their architectural qualities both practically and spiritually.
The project\'s main contractors are Costain, who engaged Stonewest as their principal specialist subcontractor.
Stonewest\'s contract includes not only the project\'s stonework but also the procurement and management of a number of specialist sub-contractors responsible for the roof, windows and regilding work of the weathervane.
Within the church, the floors of the nave\'s central and side aisles, the sanctuary and the steps leading up to it have been transformed by Stonewest.
The original Purbeck stone slabs were comprehensively catalogued and then lifted to enable the installation of new, underfloor services.
Once complete, the restored slabs were relaid, with matching slabs being sourced to replace both those damaged beyond repair and a large area of concrete laid to repair damage resulting from the Second World War.
The floor of the crypt and the crypt\'s gallery received similar treatment, although the floor of the crypt is made up of York stone slabs with large areas comprising 18th century headstones.
All were catalogued, lifted, restored and, after the new services had been installed, relaid.
Although immediately adjacent to the crypt, the floor of the gallery is of Blue Lias limestone slabs, of which nearly 25% had to be replaced. A far-reaching search finally located near-perfect matches to the originals.
The next phase of the project is scheduled for completion next month (December), when the scaffolding will be removed to reveal the work on the outside.
Work to the adjacent North Range will be finished for the project\'s final handover early next year. The church\'s open spaces will be completed by the spring.
A Â£15.35million grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund has helped finance the work but there is still Â£4million outstanding. A public appeal was launched on 1 October to raise it. Contributions should be made through the website www.givelight.smitf.org.