Victorian enlightenment
Churches are not the easiest subjects for conversion to modern living accommodation, but when the owner or architect has the will to convert the building in a sympathetic way, the planning process becomes significantly less problematic. In South Lanarkshire Conservation Officer Sandra Hunter is keen to promote the reuse of church buildings in order to give them an economic future, but often encounters ill-conceived plans, or proposals showing a complete disregard for the original building. in the case of the proposed conversion of the 110 year old Wiston Kirk, the owner, Suzanne Keenan was also the architect and was enthusiastic about maintaining the integrity of the interior and the exterior.

Unusually for a rural Scottish kirk, practically all of Wiston's windows were Victorian stained glass. Since the artist had favoured the deep and sombre colours so beloved of that era, the interior of the building was somewhat dark. The architect made a virtue out of a necessity and constructed the bedrooms round the periphery of the space. However lighting was severely restricted for the full-height living area situated in the central section and for the proposed gallery running round two of its sides. The gallery approach, which included the church's original pulpit, was considered innovative by Sandra Hunter, but the problem of insufficient light still had to be overcome.

Top lighting was the obvious answer, and, in line with South Lanarkshire's Windows and Doors Policy, low-profile rooflights were proposed. Although the roof was not visible from the road, the graveyard (itself lying on ancient burial ground) which surrounds the kirk is still in use for the local community. Minimal intervention of the roof plan was therefore a major consideration; however, to have effective lighting of the gallery and the ground floor a relatively large area of rooffights was necessary. "Conservation Rooffights" from The Metal Window Company provided a good solution since the design and proportions of these low-profile rooffights follow those of their Victorian originals and are therefore unobtrusive.

The top-hung rooflights are made from fabricated steel and incorporate a thermally decoupled lining which avoids the condensation problems normally associated with steel windows. They are also designed to be easily cleaned from the inside using a special tool supplied by The Metal Window Company - this was an important factor in satisfying Scottish Building Control requirements.

Now Wiston Kirk benefits from the jewel-like colours of the stained glass and from the pool of light shining onto the gallery and the living area below.

The Conservation Rooflight is obtainable from: The Metal Window Company, Unit 8 Wychwood Business Centre, Shipton under Wychwood, OX7 6XU. Tel: 01993 830613, Fax. 01993 831066, email.. info@metalwindow.co.uk
CONTEXT 63 September 1999