Top tips for a successful project from St Wilfrid, Burnsall

Published: Thursday, October 5, 2017


The National Churches Trust’s Grants Manager, Catherine Townsend, shares some of the top tips from Anthony Crawford, churchwarden at one of our recent grantee churches, St Wilfrid in Burnsall, North Yorkshire. It was awarded a £10,000 National Churches Trust Repair Grant in July 2017.

Ancient site of Christian worship

St Wilfrid’s is an ancient Grade I church situated in a Conservation Area within the Yorkshire Dales National Park. On permanent display are the remains of Anglo-Scandinavian crosses and tomb covers, which can be visited each day as the church is always open.

After the Norman Conquest the church was rebuilt in stone, and in the time of Henry VIII was completely reconstructed in the Perpendicular style and the tower added. Further restorations were undertaken in 1612, paid for by Sir William Craven; and then by local architect John Varley in 1858/9 when the Victorian chancel arch was inserted and the nave roof raised by six feet.

The project: re-roofing the north and south side chapels, and stone and gutter repairs

St Wilfrid’s was suffering badly from damp and water ingress in several areas. The worst affected area was the chapel where buckets had to be in place to catch the water, whilst in stormy weather water would run down either side of the chancel arch. Both north and south chapels required re-roofing to reverse the decline.

The 2013 Quinquennial Inspection Report addressed these items as urgently needed within 12 months, and in June 2016 the church was awarded a grant from the National Heritage Memorial Fund’s time limited Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund.

“These things are sent to try us!”

Thinking they were fully funded, the church received tenders back but they all came in above the anticipated costs. They suddenly found themselves with a funding gap of £47,000. This is the point at which they approached the National Churches Trust for a grant.

“The award from the National Churches Trust is a significant contribution towards closing the gap." 

Once the scaffold and tenting was set up over the roofs, the PCC were alarmed to discover another £48,000 of urgent and essential work. From this elevated viewpoint it could be seen that the slates covering the south roof slope of the chancel were in much poorer condition than previously thought. What from ground level appeared to be lichen or staining were in fact small holes, having perished to an extent that many slates could be crumbled in the hand!

It was calculated that tackling these works at the same time would save the church £25,000 in scaffold costs further down the line. Good relations with the conservation accredited architect, their Archdeacon and Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC) helped address a revised project plan and seek permissions as quickly as possible, whilst maintaining contact with their main funder at the LPWRRF lead to a surprise top up award.

Anthony Crawford shares his top tips for success

  1. Appointing a conservation architect by competitive tender at a very early stage in the process helped when problems were incurred. They were a good source of advice and they developed a good relationship. SPAB’s 2017 Lethaby Scholars even chose to visit the project.
  2. The contractor attended an initial site viewing accompanied by the stonemason and scaffolder, meeting and impressing the architect and parish. Although they had been an ‘unknown’, and were accepted as they were the lowest bid, they have kept the project on schedule and within budget.
  3. Bats! The church has a lot of bats, and three distinct species. A long-term, good working relationship with an ecologist, who is fully integrated into the project, has helped
  4. Experienced and very supportive PCC members with wide ranging skills have been most important.
  5. Communication - the architect, client, main contractor, quantity surveyor, structural engineer, ecologist, and DAC all talk to each other, but ultimately the architect passes all instructions to the contractor.  

Catherine Townsend sums up the lessons you can learn from this project:

It is not uncommon that additional issues are discovered as project work commences on site but steps can and should be put in place to mitigate the impacts of these unpleasant surprises.


Burnsall illustrates how a good project team, including an experienced and conservation accredited architect, good communication, and having a risk management plan in place, helped them cross this unanticipated bridge. The issue was identified and before long new permissions, and a solution to cashflow and timetabling was achieved. Unfortunately not all funders are able to increase their grant offers in such a situation.


Our advice to other churches is to ensure your project costs include a contingency of at least 10% to help prepare for this type of scenario. 

Applying for a grant? Find the right grant for your church here.