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£120,000 lottery cash joy for landmark Shropshire church

By Deborah Hardiman | Shifnal | News | Published:

A landmark Shropshire church undergoing a £1 million restoration has been awarded more than £120,000 in lottery cash.

St Bartholomew’s Church minister Rev Preb Pippa Thorneycroft is delighted the historic building has been given a £120,000 grant

Is is costing historic St Bartholomew’s Church, in Tong, £1 million to carry out vital repairs to its spire, windows, roof, stonework and create facilities to exhibit artefacts.

The 15th century building which has a gilded fan-vaulted ceiling and is sometimes referred to as the Westminster Abbey of the Midlands, has now attracted a £120,800 grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

It is the second time that the church has been awarded lotto cash towards the facelift.

The Rev Preb Pippa Thorneycroft, of St Bartholomew’s, said: “We are absolutely delighted and also surprised in a way by this new grant.

Rev Preb Pippa Thorneycroft

“As I came by the church this morning, the scaffolding was being taken down. We have a wedding here so it’s just as well.

“I have been here for five years and in that time we have spent about £100,000 on roof leading.

“And thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund we have now got a lovely spire, and a wonderful golden cockerel on the weather vane."

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She added: “Again the fund has come up trumps to repair the many gargoyles, parapets, roof and windows so that’s what this money will be spent on.

“Just recently we have mounted and framed an Elizabethan hanging and an element will be used for that.

A famous wallhanging at the church

“We still need toilets, heating and a kitchen area plus there are a lot of windows in need of restoration.

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“We have already spent £500,000 and I would say we’ll need another £500,000 to get it done.

“The building is 600-years-old and needs a lot doing to it.”

Worshippers earlier this year launched an appeal, 'Reviving Tong’s Golden Age: Fulfilling the Tong 2020 Vision Project', to cover the cost of a programme of essential repairs and conservation work at the site.

The aim is to make the church more welcoming for visitors and to create and exhibition of its artefacts. There will also be and activity programme for young people and families in collaboration with neighbouring visitor attractions, such as English Heritage’s Boscobel House and David Austin Roses.

An historic tomb inside the church

St Bartholomew’s is among six projects located across the Midlands to share a slice of £5.1m from Lotto.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s Midlands director Anne Jenkins said: “From heritage playgrounds, to hidden histories of country houses, to treasured churches, at the heart of all these projects is the people who come to visit.

“And we’re delighted that through our funding we can offer them new experiences to discover the heritage that they may never have realised was there.”

The work at Tong has so far seen radar technology used to highlight the exact location and shape of a burial vault underneath the vestry.

The church clock is back now in place while the organ is due for refurbishment.

St Bartholomew’s Church in Tong

Experts at the Royal School of Needlework at Hampton Court Palace found that a piece of textile hanging on a wall was probably an Elizabethan gem and significantly older than had been previously thought. It was given to the church in 1635, but it is now thought to possibly be 100 years older. Given to Tong by a Lady Harries, it has now been restored and framed.

The refurbishment is due to be completed next year and is expected to coincide with the completion of a short film series about Tong with voice overs by the veteran broadcaster Simon Bates, who grew up in the area.

The church will host a 1940s theme day on August 26 from 11am. Attractions include a barbecue, afternoon tea and a craft fair towards the mammoth fundraising effort.

Deborah Hardiman

By Deborah Hardiman
@Deborahh_Star

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star based out of the head office in Ketley. Covering the Telford area.

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