Warm welcome for £500,000 Covid emergency grants to 28 Norfolk churches

Emergency repair grants of more than half a million pounds have been awarded to 28 churches in Norfolk.

Eight Suffolk churches will receive £110,190 from Historic England’s Covid-19 emergency heritage at risk response fund.

The 28 Norfolk churches will share £513,000, which will enable repairs, conservation and investigative surveys to be carried out as soon as possible.

The Historic England grant applications were processed in double-quick time, said a delighted Mid-Norfolk church architect Ruth Blackman.  “It has been a terrific scheme and Historic England’s team has really helped to enable urgent work to be carried out,” she added.

Six Norfolk churches have received the maximum £25,000 – and four have been awarded £24,000 or more. Two of the churches, St Peter & St Paul, Watlington, near King’s Lynn and St Peter, Forncett, near Long Stratton, were added to Historic England’s heritage at risk register late last year.  Other churches receiving the fund’s maximum £25,000 grant are St Martin, Fincham, near Downham Market; St Andrew, Little Massingham; St George’s Gooderstone, and St Michael & All Angels, Didlington.

Mrs Blackman was especially pleased that £9,389 had been secured to prevent the loss of the east chancel window at All Saints, Scottow, near Norwich (pictured left). The Norfolk Churches Trust had been so concerned at the window’s desperate condition that it gave £7,000 for repairs in 2019.

Historic England made the grants from the government’s £1.57 billion Covid Recovery Fund, which was announced last autumn.

The eight grants to Suffolk Churches include £24,413 for St Peter & St Paul, Wangford and £15,000 for St Lawrence, South Cove. In Cambridgeshire, Ely Cathedral receives £25,000 and St Giles, Tydd St Giles, £18,680.

Photograph by Tony Walsh.

Four Norfolk round tower churches have received grants including £20,000 for St Mary, Beachamwell (pictured right), which will enable the south slope to be re-thatched. The work is scheduled to start in early April once the south aisle roof has been recovered next month following a lead theft in 2019.

St Peter & Paul, Tuttington, has been awarded £16,039, which will enable a detailed repair and conservation programme to be undertaken. Again, the Norfolk Churches Trust was so concerned that it gave £10,000 towards repairs of the tower, nave and chancel roof.

Photo courtesy Simon Knott

A South Norfolk church, St Andrew, Kirby Bedon (pictured left), can repair the porch with its Covid-19 fund grant of about £19,500. Churchwarden Peter de Bunsen said that the application was made – thanks to the efforts of Mrs Blackman, who worked over the Christmas and New Year holiday to submit the claim. Now, the repair programme costing more than £21,000 can go ahead.  “As the churches dates from early 12th century, this fund will protect a Norman doorway from the weather and potential damage,” said Mr Bunsen, who is a NCT council member.

At St Peter’s, Forncett, the £24,000 grant will be used for investigative work and surveys to plan a long-term repair priorities.

Peter Sheppard, chairman of the Norfolk Churches Trust, said that these grants to 27  Norfolk churches will really help. “This is a first-class example of practical, financial help to safeguard the future of our prized church heritage.  “Thank you to Historic England’s team for making these awards as part of the government’s Culture Recovery Fund. It will make a real difference,” he added.

The Churches Conservation Trust has been awarded £1.345m for St Elmham, All Saints; St Mary, Bungay; All Saints, Ellough; St Mary, East Bradenham and St John the Baptist, Parson Drove, near Wisbech.  St Peter RC Church, Gorleston, and the RC cathedral in Norwich, share part of a £3m grant to the Catholic Trust.  St Martin’s, Fordham, near Downham Market, will receive part of the £1m awarded to the charity, the Friends of Friendless Churches.