St Peter’s is in desperate need of repairs. How did it end up in this state?
A thorough inspection of the building is undertaken every 5 years and each one in the past two decades has noted the deteriorating condition especially of the roofs and walls. Unfortunately a church like St Peter’s needs constant attention, and there just isn’t enough time and financial resources. However much is done, there is always more to do! A building that is 1,000 years old will always need work done to it and over the centuries local people have done their best to maintain St Peter's church. It's testament to their dedication that the building is still here with us and that it still has an active worshipping community (when plaster and Covid restrictions allows them to meet). However, over the centuries economics, national health and politics and the cost of repairing an ancient building have all had their impacts. Across the years there have been times of plenty and times of poverty, together with times of village engagement with the church and times when people have turned away - these have played out in the life of the building. It can sometimes be assumed that the local church has access to the past and historic wealth of the Church of England. This is not the case.
The general income of any church comes through the collection at services. This has to cover the overall upkeep, insurance, the cost of having a priest and for the expert advisers needed for matters of law and advice on the care of many nationally important buildings. For the Upper Tas Valley Benefice, of which St Peter's is a part, the costs for the priest and expert advisers alone is over £28,000 a year, shared between the seven churches of the Upper Tas Valley All Saints PCC. Our average Sunday congregation is 26 people – yes 26! It's not a big leap to see why the church has come to this point in its physical life where repairs are now critical to its survival. Nowadays we are sometimes able to apply to grant funders for help, but this has not always been the case. The care and upkeep of the church over the years has been - and continues to be - through the love and dedication of local people. With at least £750,000 to raise we have quite a job on our hands! This is why the church building needs friends so that it will be there as the special place it is in the village for hundreds of more years. Yes, we are asking for money, but we are also asking for moral support and your interest, because this church is not just an old building – it is the heart of the community that serves all, and it does not matter whether you believe in God or not! We believe very strongly that this church can and should be a space for everyone. When restored, it will benefit every single person who takes an interest, near or far.
What repairs have already been done at St Peter’s? There is a long history of repairs, large and small, but several years ago structural surveys raised very serious concerns about the structure of the iconic round tower – along with other problems typical of a building of this age. An immense local effort was made by the PCC and others and in 2006-08 a major restoration project on the tower was completed. This involved extensive repairs to the tower roof, parapet, flint walls and rainwater goods. It cost £120,000 and was generously supported by English Heritage, Norfolk Churches Trust, National Churches Trust, Garfield Weston Foundation, The Forncett Festival 2007, an anonymous donor, The Round Tower Churches Society, St John’s College Cambridge and numerous individual local donors. We are so grateful to these people and organizations that helped to save what is considered the best round tower in the country.
So now the tower is in excellent condition. It’s time for the rest of the church to receive some TLC too. We’ve a long way to go, but with your help we can do it! And at the end the church will be a space for everyone – a centre for community life.
Lydia Avery, Priest in Charge
Ana Moskvina, Diocese of Norwich, Historic Building Support Worker