Norwich’s medieval ‘skyline church’ restored with help from the Trust

A city centre medieval church has been given a new lease of life in a £300,000 restoration project.

St John de Sepulchre, in Ber Street, which is a prominent church on Norwich skyline, was on the official “Heritage at Risk” register.

The major repairs, including rebuilding of the vestry, have helped to prevent imminent collapse of the medieval chancel, and buttresses have been reinforced too.

While the lion’s share of funding, £218,000, was awarded by Historic England, the Norfolk Churches Trust gave a grant.

The Norwich Historic Churches Trust, which maintains 18 former Grade 1 listed places of worship in the city, secured £6,000 from the Geoffrey Watling Trust and £2,000 from the Paul Bassham Charitable Trust, for the year-long conservation project.

St John, which was the last to be taken on by the trust in 1984, was used by the Greek Orthodox church until 2004. It is currently let to a tenant.

Urgent repairs were made to the south vestry and south transept and to strengthen the south-east chancel buttresses, which were at risk of collapse.

Other work included masonry repairs, which involved renewal of mortar using traditional techniques, and stabilising high-level window tracery – providing a range of training opportunities too. As part of the repairs to the north porch, it was possible to include a heritage skills training day.

The guttering, gullies and other rainwater goods at roof level were improved.

Inside the church, repairs to the plaster north and south transepts, which were unstable and risked causing further damage to the church, were carried out.

The project included repairs to three wall monuments, dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, which were given a conservation clean.

The main contractors were Nicholas Warns Architects, Medieval Masonry Ltd for restoration work and Skillingtons Workshop for monument repairs.

The project’s first phase was completed by late August, having been delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic. In the final phase, ground works will include new external drains and soakaways to prevent further rainwater damage.

The Norfolk Churches Trust gave £2,000 – the first ever grant to the Norwich Historic Churches Trust in November 2019.  You can read the Norwich Historic Churches Trust report here.