TWO pensioners have become a social media sensation after pictures of their stunning model church were shared thousands of times on Twitter.
Richard Williams, 75, and Louis Sharkie, 80, toiled day and night for four years to build the replica of St Deiniol’s Church in Hawarden which now stands proudly inside the surroundings of the 13th century building.
The Hawarden friends, who were assisted by another enthusiast Robert Rowlands, who sadly died before the project was completed, estimate they spent around 50,000 hours working on the 1/48th scale model which is built entirely from oak.
Richard, a former maths teacher, said: “We all met while we were volunteers at Gladstone’s Library and it went from there.
“It’s a hobby but the mathematician in me helped with all the dimensions and scaling and Robert was a draughtsman before he became very ill and passed away.
“We’ve made sure he is remembered on the plaque because it’s so sad he couldn’t see the finished article.”
Rough guesses by the pair estimate they used 7,600 oak bricks, 2,330 roof tiles and 596 paving slabs in building the church, the result of taking hundreds of measurements and photographs.
“Some of the height measurements were taken with a homemade theodolite,” said Louis, who worked in the RAF his whole career.
“These measurements taken against photo scaling proved to be very accurate.”
“The model was made using many kinds of oak to get the variation in colour,” added Richard.
“Each brick was individually cut and laid just as the original quarried stones would have been cut and laid and this was also the case with the roof slates.”
The church’s steeple, designed by Sir Gilbert Scott, was especially challenging to model, with the intrepid duo risking life and limb to climb onto the rectory roof to take photographs.
“That was dangerous,” agreed Richard. “I wanted to go on the roof to get a better shot of the tower because the steeple was something we couldn’t work out. It is very intricate but you can’t really see it unless you get up close.
“Someone put a 20ft ladder up against a little window at the top and I shouldn’t have done it really. When I was on the roof all I could think of was getting off but luckily I got down toi tell the tale.”
The pair’s dedication has now been rewarded after novelist and nature writer, Melissa Harrison, who was visiting the area for the Gladfest literary festival, excitedly tweeted pictures of the model which quickly received thousands of responses.
“The model knocked my socks off when I first saw it and that excitement is exactly how I felt,” said Melissa.
“I’ve been thinking about it a lot and it reminds of the same laborious work you put into writing a novel and the care that goes into both.
“We don’t seem to take real care over anything anymore and the fact the model took them four years shows that this wasn’t something they were doing for profit or a quick hit.
“It was amazing how people responded it and the word people kept using was ‘pure’. I think at a time when we are perhaps facing a nuclear war, the idea of building something so beautiful with such care and dedication is very comforting.”
Richard and Louis are now
hoping their creation can entice more visitors to both the village and its magnificent church.
“I was born about 200 yards away and I work as a tour guide throughout the church and the village,” added Richard.
“We’ve gone through a lot to reproduce what is there but the church is so beautiful, we wanted to replicate it as closely as possible.
“I am thrilled to bits that other people are appreciating it because the real enjoyment of something like this is other people seeing it and going ‘goodness gracious, how did you do that?’