The builders, Bakers of Danbury, finished work at the end of November. The repairs had taken seven months, a month longer than planned, because they were given extra work on the tower. This completed a project started in 2007 when thieves removed lead from the south aisle roof. It had to be replaced by a temporary covering because extensive repairs to the roof were needed before a permanent covering could be laid. So began a long period of investigations, reports, planning and fundraising.

Work started in April 2014. Because of a large grant from English Heritage we were able to carry out repairs to the tower roof, stair turret and parapets which investigations showed were urgently needed. The budget for the south aisle roof had to take account of the fact that much of its timberwork could not be inspected as it was concealed by a ceiling. Fortunately the contingencies built into the budget for this were not needed and that work cost around £15,000 less than budgeted.

Rather than lose part of the grant (as its amount was related to the total cost of the works) we decided to carry out more repairs to the exterior stonework of the tower while the scaffolding was there. Apart from natural deterioration much of the tower had been repointed with modern cement instead of lime mortar. This had prevented proper drying out of the stonework and caused it to crumble and become unsafe in places.

The opportunity was taken to carry out more work while the builders, scaffolding etc. were there. A sophisticated roof alarm was installed to reduce the risk of further thefts and while the electrician, Matt Smith, was installing its electric supply in the tower he put in lighting for the tower stairs and power points. Some of the steps were pinned and a rope fitted to hang onto while using the stairs. Also, he clock face was repainted and, as there was scaffolding in the south aisle, it was redecorated and new lighting installed.

The total cost of the works was £217,460 and all the investigations, professional fees over the period of the project were an additional £49,240, a total of £266,700 incl. VAT. This was funded by grants of £146,300  £79,298 as raised in the village from the public appeal; we are very grateful to the individuals and groups who contributed to this. That left £41,107 to be paid by the PCC from its reserves. That leaves the reserves seriously depleted and so we will be unable to meet our annual deficits for more than a few years.

The grants were from:

  • English Heritage / Heritage Lottery Fund £65,909
  • Friends of Kent Churches £22,500
  • Wolfson Foundation / Church Buildings Council
  • Marshalls Charity £5,000
  • Douglas Glanfield Memorial Fund £3,000
  • Gravesham Borough Council £650

In addition we expect to recover most of the V.A.T. from grants by the government’s Listed Places of Worship Grants Scheme.

Unfortunately ancient buildings like our church are always in need of repair and restoration. We are expecting our inspecting architect’s five yearly inspection report soon and we already know it will recommend further expensive repairs!