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Heritage Fund Repair Project

St John the Baptist Church Wilberfoss

The Grade 1 listed church received support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund in September 2017 and the works started on site on 29th April 2019, completing on 28 August 2020. Heritage Fund uplifted their delivery stage grant to £217,800 in August 2020 in addition to the previous development stage grant of £32,800 for Chancel re-roofing, external repairs and associated works. The total value of the grant was a very generous sum, ie £250,600.

Richard Dunn the PCC Building Project Coordinator commented on the Award, saying “we were delighted to receive this support from National Lottery players. The church is a rare Grade 1 listed building and the roof to the Chancel was a major cause for concern”. Furthermore, he stated “It was a relief to be able to conserve and repair the Chancel roof and historic fabric and to have repaired a number of serious defects, to reduce risks to everyone using and visiting the church. We take our role as ‘custodians of the heritage’ very seriously and we were delighted that the National Lottery Heritage Fund agreed to support the project.”

In addition to crucial urgent re-roofing, associated works included partial rebuilding and the provision of new limestone coping stones to replace the inadequate copings and re-building the Nave East gable plus general maintenance to the building. 

The developments and support from the National Lottery Heritage Fund will benefit the community as it will improve enjoyment and understanding of the architectural and archaeological heritage with the help of the new Guide Books, website, plus a social media presence. The church will also be hosting guided visits, in addition to ‘open church’ arrangements.

Richard Dunn, added: “The PCC believe that there are exciting opportunities for improving how people engage with heritage. Although the church is open to any visitors daily, there were previously no guidebooks or accessible on-line information about the history of the fourteenth century church, the former Priory layout circa 1153, the history and archaeology. The opportunity for improving appreciation of heritage is substantial. Prior to the 2019-20 project, most visitors were unaware of the rich history of the church and surrounding Priory archaeology. The project resolves this issue” 

The excellent project Architect was Andrew Boyce at Ferry & Mennim who coordinated a very talented Project Team including Historic Property Restoration Ltd., the Main Contractor.

The project included the following very urgent works:

1. Rebuilding the defective, leaking, unstable and poor quality brick and render chancel gable with excellent quality Tadcaster Magnesian limestone* 2. Rebuilding the nave east gable, including altering the roof structure and replacement of the rotten, unstable and defective Chancel arch

  • Urgent stone and timber repair works to the South Aisle
  • Repointing, masonry repairs and renewals to the Chancel, South Aisle and Tower 5. Lowering of the external ground levels, regrading paths and resetting headstones where necessary and replacement of perimeter gullies and underground drainage plus Breedon gravel to the east, west and south walls, to reduce rising and penetrating damp
  • Replacement of the existing rainwater goods with new cast iron rainwater goods, 
  • Removal of the pews in the eastern half of the South Aisle and replacement with Theo stackable chairs
  • Replacement of the existing spotlights in the Chancel with Concord Beacon LED spotlights, together with other associated minor repair and redecoration works

*It is interesting to note that Tadcaster stone was known in Roman times and the walls of Roman York (Eboracum) were all faced with magnesian limestone.

Prior to the project starting there was a serious risk of partial collapse occurring to the chancel roof and ceiling. The Church was added to the Historic England At Risk Register in 2017 and subsequently removed from the list on completion.

Important achievements during the project included extensive public involvement and engagement, several Heritage events, talks, presentations and a Heritage Day in August 2019, including stone tooling by members of the public, under the supervision of Mick Teale, Site Manager from Historic Property Restoration Ltd.

Interesting facts to note post completion include the history of the Priory Church; the sarcophagi and grave covers, discovered during the excavations; the Medieval floor tiles; the Mass-Dial on the south wall of the south aisle; the re-assessement and redating of the Nave & Chancel (late 14th Century); and the dog-tooth piscina stones uncovered in several locations. For further reading please see the FAS Archaeology Report.

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