Essential repairs and conservation work at St Magnus Church in Lerwick, which will restore the building to its 19th century decoration, are progressing well and expected to be completed in February.
The works are extensive and include the complete stripping and painting of all the pitched roofs and re-pointing of the stonework, some of which was so badly eroded new stone has had to be cut.
Ten stained glass windows, which were suffering from water and weather damage, have also been removed and sent to stained glass experts Cannon MacInnes Glasgow for restoration.
During the renovation works, a large crack was discovered in the bell. The bell is the original, which was installed in the nave of the church when it was built in 1863.
It was then moved to the bell tower when this was built in the 1890s.
Further investigations revealed that the bell was unsafe and could not be repaired. A new bell was therefore cast in November, at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London, where the original bell was made.
The bell, which will feature an inscription detailing it as a replacement, will be tuned to B and sent up to Shetland in time for the re-opening of the church.
However the old bell is not redundant. It will be cleaned up and installed as a feature of the church.
The cost of £500,098 was helped greatly by grants of £125,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £125,000 from Historic Scotland and £30,000 from the National Churches Trust.
Other grants came from Scottish Churches Architectural Heritage Trust, Scottish Episcopal Church, Shetland Churches Council Trust, Shetland Islands Council, Shetland Amenity Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation and the Allchurches Trust Ltd.
A church spokesman said the improvements would help to provide a building for continued use by the congregation, the community and visitors to Shetland for the foreseeable future.
“By doing these works it is hoped that it will be possible to preserve a building with many unique features – the stained glass windows by Sir Ninian Comper have been described as ‘arguably the best ecclesiastical collection of stained glass in Shetland’, and, ‘extremely valuable as a Scottish resource’, a building which has been part of the history of Lerwick for nearly 150 years.
“Without the assistance of these grants it would not be possible to do these repairs and the Vestry of St Magnus Church would like to thank all the grant-giving bodies for their assistance.”