GDS Takes Saxon Church out of Dark Age

St Mary’s Church in Standon, Hertfordshire is a Grade 1 listed building whose original structure dates back to Saxon times. Bequeathed to the Knights of St John in the twelfth century, this beautiful processional Church has experienced many architectural embellishments over the years, all of which have served to add to its character as a significant link to a rich historical past. In continuous use for hundreds of years, St Mary’s remains a hub of the local community, where alongside vibrant congregational worship, it is used for concerts, recitals and events, attracting local audiences as well as visitors from further afield. The church is supported by an independent charity which works to preserve and restore the ancient building, as well as by a host of local volunteers who keep its extensive churchyard in good order.

In recent times, the church authorities had concluded that significant improvements were required to its internal facilities. The growing use of the space for a wide variety of functions meant that the existing lighting provision was inadequate and the church turned to Essex-based AV specialist, Clarity in Sound, Light and Vision Ltd, to determine the best way forward. Clarity is a leading installer of tailored, flexible and easy to use systems, with great experience of the house of worship sector. As well as the practical aspects of re-lighting the church, there were many important aesthetic considerations to be taken into account. There was a strong wish to highlight the beauty of a number of the church’s historical internal features, as enhancements to creating a warm, welcoming and beautiful space.

Clarity was already familiar with GDS products, having worked with the Bristol-based, specialist LED lighting manufacturer on a previous stage-lighting project at Kimbolton School in Cambridgeshire. Following an initial visit to St Mary’s, Stuart Graham, Managing Director at Clarity consulted with the GDS team over the best way forward. After visiting the church to demonstrate examples of its lighting, GDS specified products and produced a DIALux design for the space in order to plan, calculate and provide a visualisation of the scheme to the client. As a creator and manufacturer of cutting-edge technology used in countless applications across the globe, the GDS team is exceptionally well-placed to offer such design consultancy, particularly in challenging heritage spaces such as this. At St Mary’s, the project team drew on great experience to deliver a beautiful visual outcome as well as all the energy and cost savings associated with LED.

The sensitivity of the interior fabric of the church demanded that Clarity was painstaking in its approach to the installation. The delicate ancient floor could not support heavy machinery, so ceiling access was obtained by the careful use of scaffolding. Every part of the job demanded careful attention to detail. GDS’s team was on hand throughout the install to advise and oversee the works and the system was commissioned by applications engineer John Blamey in less than half a day.

Different feature areas of the church were lit with appropriate fittings from across the GDS ArcSystem range. In the chancel, two important tombs were lit with GDS MR16 lamps, with the same units being chosen as uplighters for the ceiling. A combination of Pro One-Cell and Pro Four-Cell units was used in the nave, with ArcLamp fixtures employed in the entrance portico. Pro Two-Cell fixtures completed the picture in the aisle. The resulting installation looks stunning, highlighting the rich architecture of the building whilst offering a warm, bright, practical lighting solution for the staging of worship and events.

Stuart Graham, Managing Director of Clarity enjoyed working with GDS: “The support from GDS has been fantastic. We were supplied with demo kits to showcase the best products for St Mary’s and were able to use their DIALux designs to better visualise the end result with the client. It has been great to work together and find the best possible lighting solution for this historic building. We look forward to working with GDS again, very soon.”

Richard Cuthbert, Managing Director at GDS, summed up the project: “GDS has a proud history of working within the heritage sector, having supplied and consulted over many projects of this type. Addressing the lighting design of sites that are, in some cases, many hundreds of years old, requires a thorough understanding of principle, technology and application. Our team is well-versed in guiding installers and their clients towards achieving their aims. St Mary’s is another fine example where our close cooperation with a trusted partner has delivered exceptional results.”