Boughton Church Window Gary Trouton

Saved for Posterity Part 2 (St Margaret of Antioch)

January 2009

Pammie concludes her article on the restoration of All Saints Church, Boughton

Dramatic as it may seem the lovely old tower in All Saints in Boughton had been progressing quietly and inexorably towards collapse, until one person's keen observation launched the rescue operation which saved it-just before the rigors of approaching winter exerted a heavy toll on the crumbling sections.

In 1998, the Vicar, Rev Michael Tucker -also vicar of the other three parishes of, Wereham, Barton Bendish and Beachamwell)- was given the Quinquennial Report on St Margaret's prepared by the church architect Mr Michael Squash. This highlighted the extremely fragile state of the Grade 11 listed building. And it was obvious that the entire fabric of St Margaret's was state of dangerous collapse. It was a sobering report which detailed three categories of work that needed immediate attention; the first category was pronounced "urgent", the second category was considered "necessary" and the third category he considered "desirable". A veritable Hobson's choice now faced the PCC.

The report came as no real surprise considering that the ceiling of the South Aisle was propped up with scaffolding and, when it rained, water poured through the roof and was collected in buckets in an old tin bath. The right-hand pew platform in the nave had completely rotted in parts and was cordoned off as too dangerous for use. There were widening cracks in the walls and the plaster was crumbling off at an alarming rate.

Rev Michael Tucker and the PCC then consulted Derek Thackeray and asked him to draw on his Charity and Church finance experience to advise the PCC on the way forward. Derek recommended that a successful local fundraising campaign would be more likely to encourage the generosity of grant-making bodies rather than simply pleading for their help.

And so an appeal fund chaired by Greg Baddock and helped by 16 other members was set up to appeal to the village for help. They began by putting an appeal letter through every door of the village, which then comprised 270 households, explaining the need to take drastic action if the church was to be saved. The target was set at £10,000 to be raised within a month. It became a race against time.

The village shop, owned by Ken and Betty English, posted weekly totals in the shop window. It became a nail-biting race to see whether the target could be reached within a month. After the first week, on 1st May 1998, £2380 flowed in. By the end of the second week the handsome sum of £4252 was announced on a bright yellow card in the window. On 15th May after only three weeks this sum had risen to a princely £7,344 and on the 22nd of May the grand total of £10,117.12p appeared triumphantly in the shop window.

With this wonderful response from the entire village (200 donations ranging from £1.50 to £1000) the Appeal Committee was able to apply to English Heritage for help with the remaining £81,500 needed for the work. English Heritage responded with a 60% grant of £54,891 towards the restoration. To this could be added another £14,000 which represented 10 years of fund raising through festivals and fetes and so on.

After the fund raising and long before restoration could begin, came the real hard work of applying for funds. This involved long hours of filling in forms and applications for the " faculties" to ensure that the work would be done by properly authorised people- approved by Church conservation and restoration experts . There were long months of waiting, involving many hours of time-consuming correspondence and record-keeping. Eventually by 2001, the final hurdles were overcome -the architect and stonemasons found and hired and work could begin.

The first step was to erect scaffolding around the tower and begin the skilled replacement and restoration of the elegant pinnacles that had once graced the four corners -which had long since decayed and disintegrated. At the same time the upper part of the tower was repaired and re-pointed.

the essential work on the South Aisle and chancel roof could then begin. The roof slates were removed and replaced and the ceiling repaired together and the south-side drains. All this was to cost £87,500.

What a difference it made- the church was safe and dry the immediate threat averted -the pinnacled tower now stood tall and proud -- St Margaret had regained her crown-but the work was not over yet!

In 2001 it was realised that the organ had suffered excessively from the dust and damp as the fabric of the Church had deteriorated. The organist at the time was Ian Smith who set a fund-raising appeal in operation , and once again concerts were organised and a number of different innovative ways of raising money were found. These included a sponsored bike ride from Lands End to John O'Groats and a sponsored organ Marathon, the brainchild of Ann Pickston ,which swelled coffers by the magnificent addition of £1032. The grand old organ was restored and adds immeasurably to our services today in the competent hands of Tom Golding.

In 2003 an electrical inspection condemned the wiring with immediate effect and the church was rewired and attractive new pendant lights installed.

In 2006 old unsightly and unsafe gas cylinders which heated the large, slightly cavernous area of the church very ineffectively were replaced by a new electrical heating system at the cost of £9,500. What a huge difference this has made to winter worshippers.

During 2007 and 2008, saw a totally separate fund raising effort which once again involved approaching people on the door-to-door basis together with grants from the National Lottery and English Heritage and the tiresome process of applications and faculties. Within a year of enough money was raised to restore the Clock And Bell which chime the hour once again after a silence of 30 years.

The church had regained its crown and its voice at last.

Finally this year enough money was finally raised for the second phase of restoration. In this, the lower part of the tower was repaired and repointed , the vestry was repaired and redecorated , the nave ceiling and walls painted and cavernous atmosphere of the nave banished the north aisle also repaired and decorated and the northside drains replaced at last almost to the total cost of £38,000.

The future for St Margaret's

All that remains is the repair and decoration of the south aisle walls. This aisle contains some impressive memorials to important people in the history of the village and describes burials in vaults under the chancel from 1786 onwards. The problem here is that an earlier report concluded that there were possibly painted decorations on the wall beneath the existing plaster, and close examination of the wall will show areas of black paint which could conceivably be images beneath the present plaster. It is this possibility that has halted any further restoration of the south aisle and this is the problem and the challenge for the next and final stage of restoration. When this has been completed, Greg Baddock's challenge to the people of Wereham ten years ago - "St Margaret's has stood for 700 years -- let's hand it on to the generations who will follow us-- but in a reasonable shape" will finally be achieved.


Pammie Walker

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