In 2017 All Saints Church started raising money to re-thatch the whole roof, the 2015 quinquennial inspection and subsequent specialist report indicating that complete re-thatching and timber repairs were essential.
The chancel roof was urgent; even with generous donations and a grant from the Norfolk Churches Trust this would use every penny they had. So, after a successful appeal for local support, they formed the ‘Raise the Roof’ group, with a focus on the nave.
A bid for a significant grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund was put together, and in March 2019, just after completing the chancel roof, they heard they had been successful. The grant offered 70% of the total nave costs, up to a maximum of £96,000! They were also awarded a grant from the National Churches Trust – and set about fundraising for the rest!
Alison Hannah, PCC Secretary and Project lead said: “It was important to engage the community with the amazing heritage represented by our Grade 1 listed building, so we planned a set of activities aimed at various different groups and individuals, including pupils from the Primary School and Chapel Green School for special educational needs, both in Old Buckenham.”
In late 2019 the nave thatching began, and they held a ‘heritage day’ to showcase the skills needed for the project. They hoped to complete the whole project by the summer of 2020. However, March brought Covid and like the rest of the world, everything stopped.
Finally, in late 2020, the scaffolding was removed and the finished nave roof was revealed. Gradually they were able to undertake the postponed heritage activities; people enjoyed the heritage walk and talks, pupils from the primary school explored the churchyard wildlife, and helped design the ‘Detective trail’ leaflet, a completely revised church history book was published, and Chapel Green School pupils visited.
Finally, the last piece of the project was completed – and at their celebration event at 2pm on 10 June their ‘Sensory guide’ leaflet, created in conjunction with Chapel Green School, will be launched. The sensory guide includes ‘sound buttons’ – enabling those with sensory or learning difficulties to experience the sounds of the church (bells, organ, choir etc.) as they move about the church.
They will also officially launch the ‘detective trail’ – designed in conjunction with pupils at Old Buckenham Primary school. The detective trail leaflet aims to take the user on a discovery tour of All Saints church and churchyard. Using exploration and observation, it helps people find out about the long history of the church and how it has been used over nearly 1000 years.
They will also launch the new church History book, also created as part of the Raise the Roof project.
Alison said: “We will be inviting everyone who has been involved in the project – and of course, the schools, and indeed the whole community – to share the celebration. There will be refreshments of course, lots of photos of the project – including a rolling display using the projector and screen bought as part of the project. Members of the project team and the church will be on hand to give information about the church and there will be activities for the younger visitors.
We will celebrate everything we have achieved; our hope is that many more people now know about this precious building, which has been saved for future generations to enjoy. Most of all – it’s an opportunity to say a huge ‘thank you’ to the community of Old Buckenham – who helped us to ‘Raise the Roof’.”