On top of the world
Published: Thursday, February 12, 2015
The tower of St Nicholas’ church in North Walsham, Norfolk, has finally been restored to its full glory, with funding support from the National Churches Trust.
St Nicholas' church was built in the 14th century. For many centuries its 147ft tower made it the tallest local building, second only to Norwich Cathedral. It contained a peal of bells which were rung for the Ascension Tide Fayre in 1724.
Sadly, St Nicholas' has had many problems, starting only the day after the 1724 Ascension Tide Fayre, when the tower collapsed. More masonry fell in 1835, and the north side fell after heavy gales in 1836. The east tower was lowered and made safe, but plans to rebuild it failed to materialise when maintenance costs spiralled. Stabilisation was carried out in 1939, but poor repair work meant that large chunks of flint and masonry worked loose, and alarm bells rang in 2011 when several pieces tumbled to the churchyard below and a crack appeared in the exposed wall.
National Churches Trust support
A resulting high level survey revealed crumbling walls, requiring proper measures to make the tower safe. In response to this need, we supported St Nicholas' with a £10,000 National Churches Repair Grant to help fund repairs to the tower, bellcote, stonework and west window.
And on Saturday 7 February 2015, St Nicholas’ church celebrated its full restoration with a topping out ceremony, at which the congregation and contractors enjoyed a bottle of champagne atop their new tower, more than 25m above North Walsham. Later this month, the safety fencing and scaffolding, in place since August 2011, will come down, and townsfolk will be able to see their newly beautified Church.
Vicar Rev Paul Cubitt hailed the project’s swift success as a message of hope for the town’s future. He said: “It was frightening to see, up in the tower, the size of some of the loose rubble that could have come down – as big as boulders. It was a matter of life and death that this work was done... Everything else will seem less daunting now. The renewal of the tower is symbolic of the renewal of the town.”
Churchwarden Nancy Heywood said: "On behalf of St Nicholas Church I would like to thank the National Churches Trust for your support. The work is now almost complete and we are greatly looking forward to the scaffolding and fencing being taken down early in February so that we can enjoy the full view of our Grade I Listed building."
The National Churches Trust relies solely on the generosity of our supporters to fund our work. Last year we helped to rescue over 140 churches, chapels and meeting houses with grants totally close to £1.5m, but sadly we currently receive far more requests for help than we can possibly answer, and are forced to turn down three out of every four places of worship that apply for a grant.
The good news is that there are many ways in which you can help us to help churches; by becoming a friend, making a donation, or leaving a legacy in your will. Find out more about how you can support our work and Britain’s churches.