Lottery grant won by Breckland church

A round tower church in the heart of Breckland has been awarded £100,000 by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

St Peter’s Church, Merton, near Watton, will also repair its nave roof with zinc – having twice been the victim of lead thieves in the past eight years.

The latest grant will enable the church to be used as a local meeting place and for seminars, workshops and concerts to be held. A number of initiatives to promote the church’s heritage and history will also be undertaken.

St Peter’s Church, Merton
St Peter’s Church, Merton

The grant has been welcomed by the Round Tower Churches Society, which offered financial help for urgent repairs immediately after an estimated £2,000 of lead was stolen in August 2015. The chairman, Stuart Bowell, wrote to the Eastern Daily Press after that 2015 theft, explaining that the total repair cost was likely to be around £25,000.

St Peter’s stands on raised ground overlooking the lake and Merton Hall. It has been closely associated with the de Grey family and their ancestors, who have been lord of the manor from the Norman Conquest.

The society gave £500 to the church in 2015 and members were given a guided tour of St Peter’s two years ago.

Since the society’s formation in 1973, it has now given almost £200,000 in grants to round tower churches. The overwhelming majority of more than 180 round churches include 124 in Norfolk, 38 in Suffolk and half a dozen in Cambridgeshire.

More help for round tower churches

Grants worth almost £60,000 have been awarded by the Norfolk Churches Trust to safeguard heritage places of worship. And four round tower churches have also received a total of £3,800 at its latest quarterly meeting.

St Michael’s Church, Stockton, near Beccles, was given £1,000 for repairs to a buttress, which indirectly supports the round tower. The north buttress, which has started to pull away, needs repair and re-pointing.

Two other round tower churches were helped including St Mary’s at West Somerton, near Yarmouth, which gets £2,000 towards major electrical works. After inspection of the electrical system, including the pew-based heating, which dates from the 1950s, it has been replaced.

St Nicholas, Bradwell, near Yarmouth, received £300 towards rainwater goods. A £500 grant to St Peter’s Church, Haveringland, near Norwich, for window repairs, was agreed.

A total of 14 grants have been made by the trust at its March meeting to fund urgent restoration work at churches across the county. The biggest award of £15,000 was made to St Mary’s Church, North Tuddenham, near Dereham, to help prevent possible collapse of the tower.

It awarded £10,000 to St Lawrence, Harpley, near King’s Lynn, to replace its porch roof, which will protect one of the country’s finest carved medieval doors. The total repair bill, including other works, stands at more than £87,000.

Other major awards include £5,000 for St Margaret’s Church, Kirstead, near Loddon, where the chancel roof needs urgent action.

Repairs to conserve a remarkable east chancel window at All Saints, Scottow, near Norwich, will cost £19,000. It awarded £7,000 towards the work. Gaps between the glass and stonework have allowed rain to enter, which is adding to the problems and the window remains in imminent danger of collapsing in a strong wind.

A post-war church in Norwich, St Francis, Heartsease, receives £4,000. It faces a repair bill of £11,500 for extra underpinning to the church and for insulation of a flat roof.

Others awards

St Mary’s, Narford, near Swaffham, £3,500 for repairs to the porch.

Thanks for latest grant help

Three churches awarded a total of £6,000 in additional grants have thanked the society.
Nigel Boldero, of St Peter’s Church, Haveringland, awarded £4,000, said: “That’s great news, many thanks.”
Churchwarden Verily Borthwick, of St Mary’s Church, Burnham Deepdale, wrote: “This is wonderful news. Thank you to the society very much indeed for this very generous increase to the promised grant.”
The RTCS originally awarded £1,000 but added a further £1,000 at its latest grants’ committee.
“We are in the process of applying for further grants and of obtaining quotations from roofing contractors. Once again, many thanks,” wrote Mrs Borthwick.
A letter of thanks was sent to grants’ officer Nick Wiggin on behalf of St Margaret’s Church, Syleham. A further grant of £1,000 was very welcome.
“We have been very encouraged by the response to our appeal, and this further gift will certainly enable us to go ahead this year.”
“Please thanks the society for its most generous support; we on the PCC are so very grateful,” said Mrs Mary Lewis, treasurer and churchwarden.