The main kind of project we like to support preserves the structure of our wonderful wealth of churches and chapels. In the recent past we have given grants to repairs the roof at Wickham Skeith, the tower at Chediston, the porch and roof turrets at Clare, roof repairs at Botesdale Methodist chapel, and re-thatching at Theberton but these are only a few of the many places of worship we have been able to help.
The following is a more detailed example of the kind of problems that can be faced and typical of the type of project that meets the criteria for a grant from Suffolk Historic Churches Trust.
Ramsholt, All Saints Tower Repair Project
Ramsholt, All Saints is a Grade II* listed church set in a prominent position overlooking the Debden estuary. It is a remote area consisting of a pub and a church but nowadays virtually no population; however this peaceful location is very popular with visitors and walkers. The church is supported by a congregation drawn from the wider local community. It dates back to 13th century and has a distinctive round tower whose origins may be even earlier. The tower, unusually for a round tower, also has three buttresses.
Three structural cracks were found extending right through the tower and the tower roof also needed repair to prevent the ingress of water. This situation resulted in the church being placed on the Heritage at Risk register in 2014. Faced with a major repair bill in the region of £100,000 the PCC successfully applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for a major grant.
Heritage Lottery Funding
Large HLF grants £100,000 or more) have a two-round application process. Phase one Development and Phase Two Delivery. HLF also require that the repair project meets outcomes including engaging the wider community with the heritage of the building; the cost of activities to achieve this are included in the amount of the HLF grant. Some matched funding was also needed and the PCC appealed for donations and also successfully applied to other organisation for grant aid including the Suffolk Historic Churches Trust.
The HLF grant for the development stage enabled the PCC to undertake a full report on the state of the tower which included the hire of a hydraulic platform and inspection by the project architect, a structural engineer and a quantity surveyor. They also commissioned a survey and report from an architectural historian. At this stage they also began planning how to meet the need to engage the public with Ramsholt’s heritage.
Ramsholt’s tower is constructed from septaria flint and brick. The repair work to stabilise the tower entailed rebuilding and repointing flintwork, and repairing, replacing and repointing stonework including quite extensive local septaria (a clay-like limestone with a course texture found in the local river estuaries). Repairs were also carried out to the lead on the tower roof.
The community engagement projects included commissioning information leaflets and two interpretation boards, one describing the lost hamlet of Ramsholt and another describing the tower in detail. A very successful Heritage Day was also held. This was achieved with both volunteer and professional help and the costs were included in the HLF grant.
On completion of the project the Bishop of Dunwich led a service of celebration