Two year project helps preserve some of Suffolk's oldest churches

Churches Suffolk
Suffolk churches supported by two year preservation project Credit: Church of St Mary, Nettlestead, St Mary Rickinghall, Diss and St Peter's Church Sibton.

More than two hundred of the oldest places of worship across Suffolk have been preserved for the future thanks to a two year project to save them from falling into disrepair.

£1.8 million in funding has come to the county from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport as part of the two year 'Taylor Review Pilot'.

The project which is being run by Historic England has seen essential repairs brought forward by up to five years.

St Mary's in Rickinghall Inferior near Diss received a grant of just over £7,000.

£7,000 for new guttering and other minor repairs.

St Peter's Church, Sibton Credit: Tom Kupper/Historic England

St Peter's Church in Sibton is one of 259 places of worship across Suffolk to be helped with a grant of £8,982 for improvement to water goods and drainage and the repair of mortar joints and loose flint work.

The Taylor Review Pilot ran from September 2018 to March 2020 to look at how listed places of worship could become more sustainable through regular maintenance and repair and wider community involvement.

Church of St Mary, Nettlestead, Suffolk. Credit: Tom Kupper/Historic England

The Church of St Mary in Nettlestead is on the Historic England Heritage at Risk register due to corroding roof fixings and a large hole in the chancel roof dating from the 1950s.

The church community needed help with grant funding for repair and conservation work and were given a minor Repair Grant of £8,988 to replace roof tiles to close the hole in the roof along with other repair work.

The scheme offered free support and advice for listed places of worship of all faiths and denominations and was supported by 49% of places in Suffolk.

There are five key elements to the Taylor Review Pilot:

  • A Fabric Support Officer advised about historic building maintenance and supported listed places of worship in applying for funds under the Minor Repairs Grant.

  • A Community Development Adviser helped congregations to increase engagement beyond the worshipping community in both rural and urban areas.

  • 8 workshops in Suffolk run by the Churches Conservation Trust, focusing on maintenance, community engagement, project management and advanced fundraising and business planning. The workshops promoted best practice in historic building maintenance and the value of developing strong links with local communities.

  • A Minor Repairs Fund for minor repair to or maintenance of historic places of worship. This aimed to address the physical deterioration of historic fabric by encouraging a ‘stitch in time’ approach to undertaking maintenance tasks or commissioning minor repairs.

  • Evaluation of the success of the pilot, analysing what was achieved with its resources and identifying key learnings to inform future decisions about supporting places of worship.