The repairs to the tower of St Mary’s church and the restoration of the west window in the tower have been a combined labour of love for me.
Like most visitors to St Mary’s, I was taken aback at the beauty of the interior and the heritage. No wonder Church Care nominated St Mary’s in the top 100 churches for its treasures.
The tiled walls of the nave and chancel, the stained-glass windows throughout the church, the enormous east window, the recently restored tower window with medieval sections, the magnificent Victorian windpipe organ, and the amazing historical rood screens. So much to marvel at! When the church needed financial help to save the tower from collapse, I did not hesitate.
In 2016 little did I know what kind of journey, I and those dear to me, would endure! Two failed applications for funding did hit my confidence, but I took on board the weaknesses in my submissions. Improving my history of the village and the church helped immensely. I even authored a short book about the village!
Working with Historic England was challenging and rewarding. They quickly realised that the tower of our church was at severe risk of collapse. As a result, they became the lead sponsor and a very generous one. Others followed their lead. The architect, the structural engineer and the contractors were all part of a large team who pulled together to make it all happen Work started in March 2021.
Once the structural repairs to the tower were completed in October 2022, my focus switched to the tower window which has three sections of medieval glass. We engaged a reputable conservator, Keith Barley of York, who removed and stored the whole window for safe keeping. Again, I searched for sponsors and having secured them, restoration work began in their studios in January this year and the window was refitted in July. The detail of the stained glass is spectacular!
We can enjoy the church again not only as a place of worship and historic importance but also as community building serving the village of North Tuddenham.
People have often asked me what I have learned from my experience and what could I advise other parishes.
- Having a background in industry helped.
- Being competent with technology was invaluable.
- Having a head for figures.
- Written communication skills.
- To be resolute and determined.
- Need an ability to communicate and engage with people at all levels for support.
- To be willing praise and criticise in equal measures.
- To encourage the locals to support the repairs and save a building of historical importance.
I hope my time as a member of Norfolk Churches Trust team will facilitate this.
Mike Smith 09/09/23
- In March 2019 Norfolk Churches Trust awarded a grant of £15,000 for investigation of movement in the tower, and stabilisation needed as a result, and in March 2022 a further grant of £12,000 for the shortfall in funds due to an increase of costs of the tower repairs.