School children involved in Church graffiti

Author: Linda Holly

Published on: 1 June 2018

With leaking roofs, rusting downpipes and gutters with large holes, St. John the Baptist Parish Church was urgently in need of repair.

In late 2013 a few villagers formed an action team to assist Diana Burroughes, Churchwarden/treasurer (who had sole responsibility for the day-to-day running of the church!) to seek funding to protect this large, imposing, Grade I Listed medieval building and help preserve its fine heritage.

The first stage was understanding which building repairs to prioritise: thanks to Ken Grapes (a Diocesan Church Buildings Ambassador) a replacement Quinquennial report was commissioned and St John the Baptist PCC appointed a new architect, Nicholas Warns. The team recognised that the Heritage Lottery Fund was the best source for grants and hence it was essential to understand HLF’s requirements, best summarised as ensuring there were positive ‘outcomes’ that showed improvements both to the building and to its heritage.

In terms of building repair outcomes, that was best left to the experts: our architect and Historic England prioritised which works could be achieved for the £250,000 maximum award by HLF. Making the building watertight was the key priority: the nave and south aisle roofs were to be re-laid (with minor roof repairs on the tower and north aisle) and all the rainwater goods replaced. The second component, the heritage project, was generated by me, Linda Holly as I have a background in history research: a new history group was to be the fulcrum for delivering heritage activities. A landscape history walk inaugurated the group, and training sessions at Norfolk Archives and the Norfolk Historic Environment Record gave attendees the skills to ‘do’ history. Primary school children were engaged by taking part in church graffiti workshops; and a report on the pre-Reformation bench ends was commissioned, leading to a booklet written by the history group. The heritage activities project culminated in a ‘Medieval Weekend’ at the church led by a group of professional history interpreters, De Mowbrays.

Best tip: make the heritage activities appealing to a broader, more diverse demographic than would normally visit. It probably helps if the activities appear thought through and not simply a ‘tick box’ exercise. Do draw upon the interests and skills of the team and focus on features special to the church – i.e. Bressingham Church’s magnificent carved bench ends.

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Linda Holly

St John the Baptist, Bressingham

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