Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the support through the Heritage Lottery Fund aims to make the roof and porch watertight, combat damp, repair walls and do other essential work to preserve the 11th century gem for future generations. This work is much needed. Although services and other events are held in the church, its poor condition means it is on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register.
The project will secure the church’s fabric but its simple charm will remain unchanged. It has no electricity or water and that is how it will stay.
As well as the National Lottery grant, the project, costing £235,000 in total, is being made possible by generous donations from other grant funders. The Norfolk Churches Trust are donating £10,000, the Garfield Weston Foundation £7,500, and the Geoffrey Watling Charity £1,000. The nearby Holkham Estate has also given £3,000.
As part of the project, research into the history of the church and the nearby lost village of Waterden will also be carried out. The village disappeared in the late Middle Ages but it is unclear why. New literature will be prepared to inform the public about the Grade II listed building and the village.
The project will also ensure that the beautiful church becomes better known and is made more accessible to visitors and worshippers. They will be helped by a small new car park set well away from the church on land leased from the Holkham Estate, an orientation board in the car park, and new road signs. The programme of community involvement with this much-loved place will be stepped up.
A community group, the Friends of All Saints’ Waterden, has been established to help to care for the church and to maintain the churchyard. In addition to raising funds for the maintenance of the church, the Friends hold events to stimulate interest in it and to share its beauty and spirituality.
All Saints has a venerable history. It is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086 and is a jumble of architectural styles from Norman to early English and Tudor. A storm in the early 17th century caused part of the nave to collapse but the church kept going and now holds eight services a year including a popular candlelit Carol Service on Christmas Eve for the local community.
The church is remote even by the standards of North Norfolk and its peaceful charm has attracted some well-known people. The playwright Alan Bennett has written about it in his diaries and the cartoonist Osbert Lancaster drew a delightful line drawing of the church.
Fr Clive Wylie, Rector of Waterden and Vicar of South Creake, said:
“All Saints’ Church is a wonderful place of great spirituality and peace. I am delighted that we have received this support for our 1,000-year-old church thanks to the National Lottery players and I hope it will help to secure its future for another 1,000 years.”
Robyn Llewellyn, Head of HLF, East of England said:
“We have been delighted to support All Saints’ Waterden, to carry out urgent repairs and to make the history of this fascinating church accessible to more people. Thank you to the National Lottery players who have made it possible.”