Norfolk church misses out on top award for conservation

A major project to restore West Lexham’s round tower was one of four finalists in the 2019 Sir John Betjeman Award – of one of the country’s top conservation awards.

The award judges for the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings announced the result at the charity’s annual meeting in Kent on Saturday, July 13. The winner was a church at Grasmere, Cumbria, in the Lake District.

The judges had visited St Nicholas, West Lexham, near Swaffham, to see the £250,000 restoration project, which was completed in January 2019.

The Sir John Betjeman Award, which was first made in 1990, aims to recognise excellence in conservation of heritage buildings and is open to all places of worship and denominations. It encourages the highest standards of repair and conservation and attracted a total of 23 entries this year.

Niels Olesen, treasurer of West Lexham parochial church council, said that it was a tremendous achievement to be a finalist. “We’ve certainly seen a marked increase in the number of visitors to the church since it was short-listed for the award.”

He was grateful for help from the Norfolk Churches Trust, which awarded £7,000 in 2017, and £1,000 from the Round Tower Churches Society in 2018, towards the total cost.

The restoration was overseen by Dominico D’Alessandro, of Norwich-based architects, Nicholas Warns.