Conserving treasures – polishing a gem for future generations

28 MAY 2020

With the support of £3,500 Allchurches Trust funding, a historic church restores its medieval heritage and provides new community amenities.

The Church of St Peter & St Paul is a 13th Century church in the Suffolk village of Bardwell. The Grade I listed building is adorned with ‘treasures’, including two medieval stained glass windows (of national importance) and an intricate *hammerbeam roof. 
 
Over the last decade, the church has undergone numerous projects to maintain and improve the building, most notably a roof renovation and the restoration of its historic bells. However, with a leaking porch roof, crumbling stonework and cracked windows – more repairs were needed to ensure the safety of the community.
 
The church also wanted to take the opportunity to improve the community facilities, with the inclusion of an accessible toilet and kitchenette.
 
Bardwell Church is a prominent feature in the thriving Suffolk community, providing a base for a number of activities, from worship to coffee mornings and concerts. It serves 850 Bardwell residents and is well placed to accommodate the 16,000 people who live within five miles of the church. Some concerts and bell-ringing attract people from all over the country! 
With the additional facilities, the sky would be the limit for this quaint, village church…
 
The ‘Big’ Project
 
After two years of fundraising, with help from Friends of Bardwell Church, the Bardwell Grant Getting Group (BGGGs) and grant givers such as Allchurches Trust, work was able to start in September 2019.
 
The vestry was cleared to make space for the new accessible toilet and scaffolding went up…
Works being undertaken on church
The craftsmanship and detail of the restoration work was immaculate. Each panel of the stained glass window, for example, was removed individually, cleaned and repaired before being re-installed into its new bronze frame. The external masonry was restored with time and care and shows incredible skill.
Masonry before and after
The new facilities were carefully thought out, using materials which felt in keeping with the church’s heritage. The accessible toilet is disguised behind an ornate vestry screen and the kitchenette cupboards use a wood design which echos the silhouette of the church windows.
The vestry and new kichenette
Dave Ray, Chairman of Friends of Bardwell Church, said: “We are delighted with the project outcomes, both in preserving the heritage of this fine Grade I listed building, and the new facilities that will make it much more attractive for use by the community.
“We are certain that when the current restrictions are lifted, the church will once again play a central, and, with the new facilities, an increasing role in our community, both for worship and community use.”
 
Chloe Ewen, Grants Officer for Allchurches Trust, added: “We are proud to support the renovation of Bardwell Church, which is clearly at the heart of the community. We are certain that the restoration of the existing ‘treasures’ and the new accessible facilities, will help the church continue to thrive and grow!”
 
*A hammerbeam roof is an open timber roof, associated with English Gothic architecture
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