The first steps have been taken by Paston PCC to give new life to St Margaret’s, which is a beautiful church full of historical interest and features, but has been a building at risk and currently under-used.
The first stage has been to get the the church put into good repair to preserve it for generations to come, together with its features, notably medieval wall paintings and Paston family memorials.
The main and most important repairs were firstly to reduce the damp by installing guttering under the thatched roof to collect rainwater and take it away to soak-aways in a corner of the churchyard, secondly to stablise the south wall of the nave which has been leaning into the churchyard
Having put the church into reasonable repair the PCC are progressing a project to do what is needed to enable it to be used –
- In its traditional role, for regular worship, baptisms, weddings and funerals.
- For meetings and events like concerts, lectures, exhibitions and village meetings – as at present but much more – and not just for Paston but for the whole neighbourhood.
- As an attraction for people who want to see a historic Grade 1 listed church with medieval wall paintings, who are interested in the Paston family, local history and ecology, as a base for Natural England’s bat tours, and everything else the church and its enviorons have to offer.
The repair works started July 2013 and were completed by April 2014. This was the essential first phase of our project, without which we would not be able to carry out the rest of it.
The south wall of the nave was coming away from the rest of the building. To fix this the buttresses on the south side of the nave were re-built. They had been erected when Elizabeth I was on the throne, and have been re-built exactly as they were, each each piece of stone- work having been numbered and put back where it had been, and solid rather than hollow. Steel rods have been inserted into the south side stonework of the chancel arch
To remedy the damp the walls were all re-pointed with lime mortar which “breathes” rather than the cement mortar which was trapping damp in the walls. A new drainage system has been installed with guttering under the roof to stop rain blowing onto the walls and to take it right away from the building . The main benefit of this is that reducing the damp in the nave north wall should halt the deterioration in our medieval wall paintings
Lady Katherine Paston’s early 17th C memorial in the chancel was largely dismantled and re-erected. Our expert Dr David Carrington had found it to be in danger of collapse due to the iron rods holding it to the wall having rusted and split the stonework.
And last but not least some holding conservation work has now being done on the wall paintings by Dr Andrea Kirkham. We hope to raise funds for the full restoration job to be carried through with the second phase in the project (see below).
The need for rods in the chancel arch had an unexpected side result that the workmen found themselves looking at some more previously undiscovered medieval wall paintings and this part of the project will now also involve uncovering and stabilising them. The new paintings are just discernible and show, an angel with curly hair swinging a sensor and some symbols of the Passion, which we’re told are most unusual.
Also now we have a structurally stable and rather drier church building, we shall be raising funds for installing water and facilities and to to reorder and remove some pews to make more space in the nave, add kitchen and toilet facilities. This we regard as the second phase of the project. With a view to meeting the wish lists of people living in Paston and the various local organisations involved a committee has been meeting and considering the various options. The committee, under the chairmanship of Philip Burton comprises members of the Paston Parish Council, Parochial Church council, Heritage Society and various other people who have an interest in the church.
Our plans have been shown to all the bodies we are required to consult and have been inspected by the Diocese committee who oversee works or changes to church buildings. They have agreed the plans informally and we have now lodged the formal application for a faculty. When we have that we shall finalise the details. Meanwhile we are fundraising. One component of the necessary funding has been the recent sale off the site of the former village hall.
The existing vestry is to be demolished. A kitchen and toilet are being put at the West end of the nave, the rearmost pews are to be removed or rearranged, and the font is to be re-positioned in the middle of the nave.
If you would like to help us by kindly making a donation to the restoration fund the best and easiest way is when you visit by putting a cheque or cash in the secure donations box.