Wednesday 7th September was the Norfolk Churches Trust’s Annual General Meeting, held at the impressive, Grade 1 listed St Mary’s, North Tuddenham.
Our President, General Lord Dannatt was in the chair for the 46th AGM of the Norfolk Churches Trust. He welcomed those assembled and introduced the Chairman and Honorary Treasurer, who gave their reports for the year to 31st March 2022, in what had been another difficult year due to the ongoing restrictions of the Covid 19 pandemic. However, the annual Bike Ride, whilst down on the record breaking year of 2020, still provided a good result, the seventh most successful year overall. Necessity meant that most other events within the year took place out of doors, but this diversification provided some very welcome income.
Once the formalities were over, Mike Smith, Fabric Officer of St Mary’s presented A Race Against Time, an illuminating talk describing how the church tower was saved from collapse. North Tuddenham, is recognised by the Church of England as being in the top 100 churches for its ‘Treasures.’ These include the aforementioned 14th Century Tower, the single bell dating from 1380, the 15th Century nave and chancel, medieval stained glass, and the ornate Victorian wall tiling.
Concerns for the potential of ‘Tuddenham’s Tumbling Tower’ were first raised in the 1970s, reaching a state of imminent collapse in February 2019, when the church had to be closed for safety concerns. Rainwater damage, tree roots and the remnants of an earlier Saxon tower had meant the foundations had become unstable. Despite two failed Heritage Lottery Fund applications, Mike did not give up, and with a grant of £300,000 from Historic England and match funding from other providers, including £27,000 from the Norfolk Churches Trust, along with local fundraising, a very impressive £142,500 has been raised since February 2019. St Mary’s tower is now stable with the works due to be completed in October. The extent of the tower repairs can be seen in the photograph, the boarded area will have its stained glass window reinstated once it returns from restoration work in York.
Mike needs to be congratulated for his Herculean effort and for his perseverance to get the structure safe and the works to where they are today.
The knowledge that Mike has obtained throughout this project will not go to waste as Mike has been elected to the Trust’s Advisory Council, along with other new Council members, Laura Baily, Moira Morrisey, Richard Wolstenholme and last but not least Caroline Egerton, who has stepped down after many years of service as a Trustee, including being Chair twice. Their knowledge and experience will be vital to the Trust as it moves towards its half century.