Sunday, 27 September 2020

Church needs £550,000 for repairs and improvements

A VILLAGE church which was built by the Saxons in the 9th century is hoping to

A VILLAGE church which was built by the Saxons in the 9th century is hoping to raise about £550,000 for repairs and other improvements.

The Langtree ministry team, which is responsible for St Mary’s in Whitchurch, says the main roof of the Grade II* listed building is in poor condition and has partially collapsed.

It must raise £150,000 for repairs and has applied for an £80,000 grant from the Government’s listed places of worship scheme. A decision is expected by the end of the year.

The remaining money will come from smaller grants and fund-raising events, including a choral concert at 7pm tomorrow (Saturday) when the Reading Phoenix Choir will perform with 25 youngsters from Whitchurch Primary School.

Depending on how quickly the money is raised, work could start next spring and be finished by the summer. Once this is done, the church needs another £250,000 to mend the chancel roof, the cedar shingle above the bell tower and the church clock and bells. This will be a more delicate operation and a scaffold will have to be erected.

The ministry team also hopes to raise £150,000 for a new kitchen and toilets for hire by the community with the income going towards the repairs.

The team first became aware of the problems at St Mary’s following a routine inspection a few years ago.

On one occasion, a hole appeared in the roof and rainwater damaged the church organ. In November another patch of the roof collapsed and emergency repairs were needed. Earlier this year an aerial survey was carried out free of charge by Matt Kino-Wylam, of Woodcote, which runs drone company Air Necessity.

The remote-controlled devices took images which showed many of the roof tiles and wooden battens were cracked and split and the nails holding them in place had rusted.

The lead flashing had deteriorated so rain could get in and this was damaging the electrics and risked weakening the medieval timbers that support the roof.

The church has been refurbished several times since it was built, most recently in 1901. Its six bells were installed in 1577 following a local fund-raising campaign and a peal was rung to celebrate George I’s coronation in 1714.

It was originally a Catholic church but switched allegiance to the Church of England following the Reformation.

Churchwarden Peter Ferguson said: “We first applied for the government grant last year but that wasn’t successful. We’ve gone for it again and we’re hoping for a better result this time.

“In order to achieve our goal, we have to involve the community as much as possible. We’ve been running a very successful art café for the past few months and could hold similar events if we get permission for a kitchen and toilets.

“We need to show that we’re getting the community involved and are actively looking for other sources of funding when we apply for grants. It’s also important because churches are going to die out unless they bring people in to use their facilities.

“The drone survey was very useful. It confirmed our suspicions and also showed damage above the chancel, which we weren’t previously aware of.”

Entry to tomorrow’s concert is £10 and tickets are available on the door or from the Ferryboat pub in High Street.

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