Grand Old Photos

Here are some photos (as discovered by my wife, Helen).

Anything to say about what’s going on in them? If so, please leave a comment below.

I hope you like them as much as I do.



Does anyone know what the building is between the church and the terrace house? Also, does anyone know the name of the pub on the left of the photo?

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Workshops – Painting Restoration (6th & 7th March)

Thank you so much to everyone who came along and enjoyed the Painting Restoration Workshops we held this week at St Marie’s.

The workshops were delivered by the magnificent Silvano Cioci Faux (from North West Murals). I will be posting a few more articles about Silvano on the blog. One where he explains the techniques he uses whilst restoring paintings and another on how he first got involved in the restoration business.

I’m delighted to report that both of the workshops were “sold out”. Silvano was (in my opinion) a superb host and the feedback we received was extremely positive.

The attendees were quizzed before and after the workshop. The questions beforehand gauged how interested they were in Painting Restoration, local heritage and St Marie’s itself. I’m pleased to report that everyone was more interested (or still as interested) in all of the above afterwards. Some attendees had said their interest or excitement was already at 10 out of 10 so they hadn’t left themselves much room for improvement!

Here are the comments we received:

– It was very informative.
-Silvano was very easy to understand. He answered our questions intelligently and was a very nice man.
– I’m amazed by what I learned. I can’t believe it’s real gold in the paintings.
– It’s amazing what they can do!
– Brilliant. I want more workshops.
– It was fascinating. I look forward to seeing the film.
– Really interesting.
– Today was fascinating, interesting and informative.

Here are some photos from the workshops:

The painting (from the altar at St Marie's) that Silvano was working on. You can see the difference between the half of the halo that Silvano had restored and the half he had yet to clean.

The painting (from the altar at St Marie’s) that Silvano was working on. You can see the difference between the half of the halo that Silvano had restored and the half he had yet to clean.

Roger, Tommy, Billy and John listen intently to Silvano.

Roger, Tommy, Billy and John listen intently to Silvano.

Silvano outlines her work to Peter, Tony, Louise and Bev.

Silvano outlines his work to Peter, Tony, Louise and Bev.

Silvano gives the halo it's original shine back.

The guys watch on as Silvano gives the halo it’s original shine back. Note the difference also at the bottom of the painting (which Silvano had already restored).

Workshop 1 Team Photo: Roger, Billy, Silvano, John & Tommy.

Workshop 1 Team Photo: Roger, Billy, Silvano, John & Tommy.

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Silvano explains the tools/solutions he uses to clean the paintings. You can’t beat some synthetic Italian saliva!

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Silvano uses photographs on his iPad to show Tony & company the impact of his work.

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Roger, Tommy, Billy and John listen as Silvano explains the restoration process.

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Silvano shows the group his magnifying glasses and fine fibre optic brush for cleaning the paintings.

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Mixing a solution for cleaning the painting. I think this was a mix of synthetic salvia and special soap.

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Peter and Tony lean in to get a closer look at Silvano’s handiwork.

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Workshop 2 Team Photo: Peter, Tony, Silvano, Louise and Bev.

A big thank you to Silvano and everyone who attended.

If you’d like to be notified about future workshops. Please e-mail

Thanks very much.

Matthew Roberts

Workshops – Meet Silvano

Silvano Cioci Faux (from North West Murals) is part of the team tasked with the redevelopment of St Marie’s Church in Widnes.

Silvano is responsible for Paintings Restoration. On Friday I had the pleasure of sitting down with him for a chat.

In this interview he explains how he first became interested in working in this field, other heritage projects he’s worked on in the past and we discuss whether Italians have provided the world with its greatest artists.

I am very grateful to Silvano for taking the time to talk to me.

For more information on Silvano (and his work), please visit



Putting the Bell Back…

If you’ve seen the Pics of the Week for Week 19, you’ll have noticed that the bell has been re-placed back on the bell tower.

If you’re a fan of seeing 225kg bells being hoisted up by giant cranes, you’re in for a treat, as our resident photographer (Dave Clark from John Turner Construction Ltd) was on hand to record the event for posterity. Thanks Dave.

On Monday (3rd March), the Bellcote Tower (including the bell) was lifted back up and put back in it’s original position. The stonework had been repaired and the stone restraint straps had been fully replaced due to corrosion and bolted in with stainless steel rods.

You may not be aware that the bell has had an adventure or two over the past few months. Over the New Year, a local scrap metal enthusiast with an eye for a bargin climbed the scaffolding outside the church and managed to shove the giant bell over the edge. You can tell from the photos (which I took the next morning) that it took out a fair bit of the scaffolding on it’s speedy journey to the ground below.

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You can see at the top where bits of the scaffolding were strategically repositioned in order to create a gap for the bell to be pushed through.

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You can see the damaged scaffolding from the bell’s path of destruction.

Thankfully the bell landed in the soft grass and, whilst it left a heck of a dent in the ground, the bell itself was fine.

It probably would have been lost forever, had not one eagle eyed local resident witnessed the caper and then tipped me off about the scheme. The bell had been sold immediately for scrap in St Helens (a cunning ploy given that it meant Cheshire Police would have to talk to Merseyside Police to get it back), but following a further tip off about the best business at which one could sell recently obtained (and difficult to explain) scrap, we journeyed into St Helens. You can imagine our delight that the very same business (the first one we we visited) had, that very same day, purchased a 225kg bell matching the description of ours.

So the bell came back home to St Marie’s and now has improved conditions to live in.

Everyone wins (except perhaps the scrap merchant and the bloke that sold the bell).

Many thanks.

Matthew Roberts

Pics of the Week – Week 19

More photos from the ongoing redevelopment of St Marie’s Church in Widnes. Thanks as always go to Dave Clark (Project Manager & Head Photographer) from John Turner Construction Ltd.

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Reinstalling the bell to the new supporting timbers. Note the bellcote was erected at ground level as it was delivered in sections. Once fully erected, it was lifted by crane back to it’s original position on the church roof.

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We couldn’t have had better weather.

Workshops – Painting Restoration


I’d like to apologise in advance for the short notice, but I’ve received word this morning of a further opportunity for people to learn more about the physical redevelopment of the Church and I wanted to invite you along.

Silvano Cioci Faux (from North West Murals) has been responsible for “Painting Restorations” inside St Marie’s. He has agreed to put on two workshops so that stakeholders in the project (such as your good self) can get an up close look at his work so far.

I think this is a great opportunity to, not only see a superb artist at work, but to see some of the paintings up close before they are put back into the Church.

The workshops are on Thursday (6th March) and Friday (7th March) this week from 10am until midday.

There are only 4 places available for each workshop and they will be assigned on a first come first served basis.

If you would like to attend one of the workshops, please e-mail me via (stating which day you’d like to go on). I will reply ASAP to confirm that you have a place.

Apologies again for the short notice. I will keep you informed about any further workshop opportunities as soon as I am notified.

Hopefully hear from you soon!

Matthew Roberts