Six round tower churches share almost £50,000 in latest grants

Six round tower churches have received total grants of almost £50,000 in the past three months.

The Norfolk Churches Trust awarded £30,000 at its quarterly council meeting in November – £6,000 to Forncett St Peter; £7,000 to St Peter, Haveringland; £5,000 to Herringfleet St Margaret; £8,000 to All Saints, Runhall and £4,000 to St Mary the Virgin, Weeting.

The Round Tower Churches Society at November’s quarterly committee meeting awarded almost £8,500 in grants with £4,000 for Runhall, £3,000 to Forncett and £1,350 to St Mary the Virgin, Weeting. In addition, South Ockendon, one of seven round tower churches in Essex, received £7,500 from the Society.

Forncett St Peter’s awards will help bridge the shortfall in a major restoration and repair programme costing £475,000. The urgent repairs include re-slating the nave and chancel roof, extensive repairs to nave and chancel gables and almost every part of the church, inside and outside.

St Peter, Haveringland was given a grant of £7,000 to fund repairs to the roof, external walls and also to the tower. While the National Lottery Heritage Fund has made a significant contribution, the soaring costs of materials and labour has left the church with a shortfall of about £30,000.

Four medieval windows at St Margaret, Herringfleet, need urgent action to preserve the 15th century stained glass. Many of the panels are corroding and without prompt remedial action could be lost. In addition, to internally ventilated protective glazing, protection of the glass will be included. The total cost will be around £55,000 and the NCT awarded £5,000 towards the project.

With cracks in the tower and nave, All Saints, Runhall is on the official Heritage at Risk Register. With rapid deterioration of the external fabric, including the porch, prompt action is needed. In 2016, the surface water drainage system was highlighted as a key contributory factor, further confirmed in the 2021 quinquennial report.  With the immediate cost for this work at more than £33,000, the NCT has given £8,000.

St Mary the Virgin, Weeting, has received a grant of £4,000. In August last year, the Archdeacon closed the main body of the church until the nave ceiling has been made safe. As a result, there is no public access to most of the church although services can be held in the chancel.

With loose and falling plaster plus collapsed pews and a subsiding floor in the south aisle, it is likely that poor drainage continues to threaten the stability of the church. Accordingly, a number of urgent surveys to determine the underlying structural issues are needed.

The church was placed on the HARR (Heritage at Risk Register) in 2019 following a theft of lead. While Historic England made a generous grant of £7,650, rising costs have been a further challenge.

Repairs have started and this will cost about about £17,500. Thanks to the Heritage England grant, the shortfall stood at £5,350 – but the Norfolk Churches Trust’s award of £4,000 and £1,350 from the Society will bridge the shortfall.

As reported elsewhere, the Society gave £7,500 to St Nicholas, South Ockendon – the largest single grant in its history.

Photograph of St Margaret, Herringfleet’s east window, taken on November 6, 2023 by Michael Pollitt.