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Restoration Work at All Saints'

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The Parochial Church Council is obliged every five years to ask an architect to carry out an inspection of the church building.

This was done last year by Robert Montgomery, our long standing and valued inspecting architect, and various aspects of stonework and external fabric were identified as needing urgent attention. These are mainly on the walls of the tower, on the upper parts of the north side of the nave and on the south transept. Our recognition that we must act soon was reinforced when we experienced leaks from the west tower wall into the nave during a wet spell last spring. We asked our architect to provide a more detailed report and this was carried out in consultation with the contractors, Rayners of Abingdon, who have managed most of our maintenance work over the past ten years or so. The estimate for this work comes to around £200,000. A second opinion from another architect confirmed the validity of Robert Montgomery’s report and estimate.

This sum is far in excess of any resources we have or are likely to raise from friends and neighbours and so we have decided to work with a funding consultant from the well-established firm Craigmyle who, it turns out, also helped Ripon College Cuddesdon some years ago now to raise funds towards building works. Our attention has been directed towards the National Heritage Lottery Fund (NHLF) and we are in the very early stages of considering making a bid for one of their major grants. During the lockdown of last year NHLF withdrew the availability of these larger grants (up to £250,000) but in the middle of February, they announced that larger grants related to the maintenance and availability of our heritage would once again be offered. There is no cut-off date for application, so it makes sense for us to move as swiftly and surely as we can towards an application. It is not just other churches with which we shall be in competition but any project that involves making the heritage more available.

That leads me on to the extraordinary heritage that our church possesses here in Cuddesdon, where the Bishops of Oxford lived for centuries and where we have a leading theological college that uses our church on a daily basis in termtime. We want to have some permanent display in the church to celebrate that heritage. We also want to make the interior of the church a place where we can enjoy gatherings, when times allow for that, and serve refreshments in a more convenient way than we do at present. So, our application for an NHLF grant is likely to involve installation of both a servery and a permanent display of aspects of heritage, of museum quality of course, and that will involve the removal of some permanent pews, probably in the north aisle of the nave, the part that is farthest from you when you enter the church from the south porch. We have no intention of removing the pews from the centre of the nave or reordering in any insensitive way. We can also take the opportunity to move the children’s area, which is already in that aisle, to where our young people may feel more involved with church services. This application for a grant, guided by our Funding Consultant, is therefore likely to parallel the successful application we made a few years ago and which involved restoration of the chancel, the south porch, the installation of a toilet and the commissioning of a new guidebook. We managed it all then and hope we can do so again now.

It must be emphasised that these plans and thoughts are only in the initial stages but the PCC very much want the wider community to know what is hoped will develop over the next few years and we would very much appreciate the expression of your interest, involvement and any concerns. If all goes well, we shall certainly want to invite everyone to see the more detailed plans and to contribute ideas and, of course, we shall be needing local funding as well. NHLF will not provide the whole cost of any project. Don’t hesitate to be in touch and I shall report in this Newsletter any developments as they occur.

Robert Wilson

Churchwarden