Church saved thanks to £215k lottery grant

An historic village church has been saved thanks to a £215,000 grant which will enable vital repair work to get underway.

St Margaret’s Church at Thimbleby was closed as unsafe in 2010, but partially reopened in 2014 after the dangerous spire was removed.

Now, thanks to money from the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Grants for Places of Worship, the project to restore the Grade II listed building can begin.

“It is absolutely wonderful to receive this money, but we have worked for it,” said the Rev John Parkin who is spearheading the project.

“As always, we have had to raise partnership or match funding, and this has been a real team effort.

“A considerable amount - about £55,000 - has been raised mostly by the village church community, with over £27,000 from social events, bring and buys etc organised by the Friends Trust. People have been very, very generous.”

The project will see repair and full restoration work to the entire tower/spire area, including repair and strengthening of the tower and rebuilding the belfry and spire.

Damage to the building is due to a potentially fatal flaw in its 1879 construction.

The interior brickwork supporting the belfry and spire contains a lime mortar in which a rogue batch of magnesium lime was used.

Magnesium sulphates are formed which then attack the stonework by erosion and cracking.

Commenting on the award, churchwarden Jeanne Goulbourne said: “We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund and are grateful to the Project Group for its work on the HLF Application.

“We will now be in a position to eradicate the magnesium from the tower area that has caused so much damage to the structure.”

Rector of the parish, the Rev Charles Patrick, added his thanks.

“We are very grateful to the Heritage Lottery for their grant, which will help progress the very necessary repair work to the church building, which is beautifully situated in the heart of Thimbleby.

“The monies will ensure that the building is there as a platform for the witness and loving-service of the church family to the village for many years to come.”

Most of this year will now be taken up with preparing specifications and drawings, with work expected to begin next year.

Meanwhile, fundraising continues for future work.

In addition, the grant will fund research for new historical interpretation in the church and create a website based on the link with the late medieval cottages in the village, identical to those first built in Jamestown, Virginia, USA.

Comparison will be made between the longevity of the cottages and the failure of the material used in the church construction.