1,000-year-old Shropshire church gets £271,500 lottery funding to safeguard its future

A 1,000 year old Shropshire church has been awarded £271,500 of lottery funding to safeguard its future.

Stottesdon Church
Stottesdon Church

Stottesdon Parish Church, which is on the 'heritage at risk' register was awarded the grant by The National Lottery Heritage Fund.

It will help deliver essential repairs to the roof and stonework at St Mary's Church as well as investment in heating and lighting.

The heritage project, “Stottesdon Parish Church, Past, Present and Future”, is being made possible by money raised by National Lottery players.

An old photo of Stottesdon Church

It will start this summer and finish around Christmas. As well as the roof there will also be work on the rainwater disposal system.

Project Manager Chris Tibbits said: “After almost seven years of fundraising and development work, we are absolutely thrilled to have received this wonderful support thanks to National Lottery players. We look forward to safeguarding the fabric of this historic building and to sharing, nurturing and reinforcing the many links St Mary’s has with the local communities we serve.”

He said that investment in more sustainable heating and lighting will achieve a warmer and well-lit welcome for all.

As well as the physical work there will also be a complimentary programme of community activities and events, and volunteering opportunities, to encourage more residents, locals, and visitors alike to enjoy exploring, learning about, and using the historic building more often. These will continue in 2023 and beyond.

Working with charity partners, the project will provide hands-on learning/training opportunities. These will include replica tile-making workshops with Jackfield Tile Museum of Ironbridge Gorge and churchyard nature trails and bio-diversity surveys with Caring for God’s Acre.

There could also be hard hat tours of the building works in progress to showcase traditional craft skills, such as woodworking and stone masonry.

A smartphone-based Digital Explorer Trail will be created alongside newly researched historic interpretation to guide people around the treasure trove of heritage features within St Mary’s.

These include a crudely carved Saxon Tympanum from circa 990, a Norman Font, circa 1138, remnant Medieval floor tiles, spectacular Medieval and Victorian stained-glass, the peal of Heritage Bells, the Jacobean Pulpit, a Turret-Clock and the classical Rood Screen.

Trained volunteers will lead monthly guided tours and provide other more specialist ‘behind the scenes’ events.

Clare Tibbits, church warden at St Mary’s said: “Visitors to our Village Open Gardens for the NGS Nursing Charities on July 17 may be among the first to see the early stages of the works in progress.”

Robyn Llewellyn, director, England, Midlands & East at The National Lottery Heritage Fund said: “We’re really pleased to support Stottesdon Parish Church with this grant. Investing in heritage means investing in the community it belongs to, so it’s great to see that the local community lies at the heart of this project. I hope that this funding will celebrate Stottesdon’s rich history in a way that everyone can enjoy and be proud of.”

Ludlow MP Philip Dunne said: “St Mary’s Church has played a central role in local community life for over 1,000 years and has a rich local history, with a spectacular pre-Norman tympanum and stunning Victorian stained-glass windows.

“The extensive restoration project funded by National Lottery players will ensure that the Stottesdon Parish and wider community can continue to enjoy this beautiful heritage asset for years to come.”

In Anglo-Saxon times, Stottesdon was the ‘caput’ or regional administrative centre for the ‘Condertree Hundred’. As such, it was the principal market town, and base for the local justices, for much of modern-day southeast Shropshire. The church building and the richness of several of its heritage treasures reflect that historic, now oft-forgotten, role.

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