St Andrew’s 1000 year legacy lives on

The 1000-year-old church of St Andrew’s in Twyford, south Derbyshire, has received a lifeline of funding for urgent repair work to its rapidly deteriorating stonework, tower and spire.

Anne Bennett, from St Andrew’s, said: “Without this immediate attention, the damaged stonework of this significant Grade I listed building would have required the distinctive church spire to be dismantled. Because of grants from the National Lottery, Garfield Weston and Allchurches Trust we have been able to conserve the building for future generations.”

The church features a beautiful Norman chancel arch, dating from the 1100s, while the lower tower was added during the 1200s. The upper tower and spire were built around 1300. The western end of the church is the oldest and Maltese Crosses dating from the Middle Ages are inscribed in the walls.

These insignia of the Knights Hospitaller record the monks’ connection with the church and its use as a place of respite and care for pilgrims travelling to the Shrine of Wystan at Repton. The nave contains a number of mysterious inscriptions that have never been deciphered, but are thought to date from the Saxon period.

Anne continued: “These crucial repair works will allow us to conserve St Andrew’s church as a place of worship, a community centre and a significant building that can inform and engage present and future generations.”

Paul Playford, grants officer at Allchurches Trust, says: “One of the most exciting aspects of this project is that local students will be participating in study days on site during the repairs. This is a rare opportunity for students to learn first-hand about the sensitive construction work connected to restoring such a significant heritage asset of this age.”

As one might expect, a church with 1000 years of history is full of interesting stories about the people who have been connected with it over time. A brass plate commemorates Simon Bristowe, a member of Cromwell’s Army. John Wright, a renowned surgeon who operated for more than 40 years (in the days before anaesthesia), was buried in 1851. And, Sir William Towle, the son of Twyford’s blacksmith, who pioneered on-board train catering services in the late 19th Century (and was knighted in 1920), donated new pews and a pulpit after a fire caused serious damage to the church’s interior in 1911.

St Andrew’s has been a well-used place of worship and a busy community centre for centuries and remains so for the 139 residents of Twyford today. But these days, the congregation also includes those from further afield, some of whom come to services because the Common Book of Prayer is still used. Others, however, are attracted to St Andrew’s because of the simplicity and peace of the building, its interest as a place of historical importance and worship, and its perfect setting in an idyllic, rural landscape.

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