Emergency Covid-19 funding also helps four round tower churches

Two dozen churches across Norfolk are sharing in almost half a million pounds of emergency Covid-19 funding.

Historic England has awarded 24 grants to churches across the county worth £438,000 plus a further £110,190 in Suffolk.

Four Norfolk round tower churches have received grants including £20,000 for St Mary, Beachamwell, 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 2017.

St Mary, Haddiscoe, which was given £1,000 by the Society in March 2020, has been given £11,318 in Covid-19 fund help. As reported in the Round Tower (June 2020), funds were needed to repair lead sheeting on the south side of the nave roof where slippage had taken place and allowed water ingress.

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.

The latest grants in the Covid-19 emergency heritage at risk response fund were processed in double-quick time, said Mid-Norfolk church architect Ruth Blackman.

“We’ve been able to secure vital funding for many churches from the government’s covid recovery fund. 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 a further 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. 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. It has made eight grants to Suffolk Churches, which includes £24,413 for St Peter & St Paul, Wangford and £15,000 to St Lawrence, South Cove.

A South Norfolk church, St Andrew, Kirby Bedon, will now be able to repair the porch with its Covid-19 fund grant of about £19,500. Churchwarden Peter de Bunsen said that the application was successfully lodged – 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 also a NCT council member.

At St Peter’s, Forncett, the £24,000 grant will be used for investigative work and surveys to plan long-term repair priorities. Water damage to the floor, and cracking of flint and stonework has added to the challenges faced by this 1000-year-old church.

The Churches Conservation Trust has also 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.

Michael Pollitt

Photograph: St Peter & Paul, Tuttington – awarded £16,039.

Picture, Tony Walsh in 2019.