One of the ways we help keep the UK’s churches open and in use is through our grants. At a time when funding for churches is in short supply, partly due to the loss of income during Covid-19, our grants are increasingly important.
In our latest ‘Grant of the Month’ feature we take a closer look at St Mary the Virgin in rural Badby, near Daventry in Northamptonshire.
St Mary the Virgin has overlooked Badby from a knoll at the top of the village since the 14th century. In the 15thcentury a clerestory (a band of windows running below the roof of a church) of ten closely set pairs of windows was added to the church.
St Mary’s tower was rebuilt between 1707 and 1709, and restored by noted architect E.F. Law of Northampton.
Along with regular Sunday services, St Mary the Virgin hosts monthly family services and weekly bellringing practice for the community, as well as drop in Tea & Meet sessions at the nearby village hall.
Like many churches, St Mary the Virgin had found itself in a challenging position when Covid-19 lockdowns made normal fundraising events impossible. A major concern was being able to find the money needed to pay for repairs to rotting timber supports in the church’s roof which meant that water was leaking into the building.
Geoff Pullin has been keeping the congregation at Badby informed about the building project said that it was difficult to get on to the roof and investigate what needed doing. “Only those who put a bucket or two and mop after a floor [were] aware of the problem!
So we were delighted to be able to help St Mary the Virgin in 2021 with a grant of £47,383 for urgent repairs to the roof and tower using funding provided by the Heritage Stimulus Fund. To further help, we also awarded the church a Wolfson Fabric Repair Grant of £7,500.
After receiving news of our funding awards in November 2021 the team at St Mary the Virgin moved quickly to sign up contractor GSS Architecture to complete the complex project as quickly a possible.
Over the next 6 months, the entire chancel and nave roof was replaced with a new and highly durable terne-coated steel covering, with gutters and rainwater goods replaced as needed. This also provided an opportunity to check the condition of the decks and rafters.
The church clock was removed and repainted with new gold leaf gloss by specialist clockmaker Gilett & Johnston.
As is often the case in restoring historic buildings, there were surprises.
“The hidden rotten timbers were not so bad as they could have been,” Geoff from Badby told us, “but some of the carved parapet capping stones swivelled around alarmingly as the old flashing were disturbed.”
This complication required unexpected masonry work. Fortunately, in March 2022 we were able to award the church a further £23,000, enabling masonry repairs and replacement to be carried out to a high standard by craftsmen from Weldon Stone Enterprises Ltd.
This work involved all of the chancel parapet stones being removed, cleaned and refitted on fresh lime mortar so they would stay secure. Two new cornerpieces and six metres of newly cut stone from Great Tew Quarry were also brought in to replace the most eroded masonry.
The work to the roof now gives the church a long lasting and secure cover so that worship can take place and a range of community activities can be held in a multipurpose area with disabled access created in 2018, without fear of water coming into the building.
Geoff said: “Everyone was very thankful that the funding had been available and the work completed so soon, without the tedious years of fund raising that have traditionally been involved with such large projects.”
Full of praise
Our Church Support Officer Chloe Ducroizet-Boitaud has been supporting St Mary through the project. She was full of praise for the team:
“Geoff and the team have been a pleasure to work with, he has been tirelessly working towards the repairs of St Mary the Virgin's roof and clock. I really appreciate their efforts in keeping us updated about the progress of the works, and how proactively Geoff has been managing the project.
“It's wonderful to see that all those efforts have paid off and that the roof, the parapet and the clockface all look brand new and will be able to withstand several more centuries.”
The church celebrated the end of the project with a dedication service at the beginning of June and is now offering tours to the top of the tower to see the new roof over the summer. "The Holy Spirit was the first in our list of thanks at the Dedication Service!" said Geoff.
St Mary the Virgin is well worth a visit. For walkers, Knightley Way and Nene Way both start from the village. The church is a fantastic place for quiet contemplation with a chance to explore the heritage and history of a building over 600 years old.
St Mary was one of 33 churches funded by the National Churches Trust with grants from the Heritage Stimulus Fund, administered by Historic England on behalf of the Government. Across late 2021 and 2022, £3.6 million was awarded to a variety of large projects in churches across the country.
Since 2007 we have helped over 2,000 churches, chapels and meeting houses throughout the UK stay open and in good repair, preserving their heritage and enabling them to continue as vital community buildings.