Algarkirk’s 800-year old parish church has been given a lifeline – with a £175,000 development grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
This is the first step in a £1.8 million project to restore the endangered St Peter and St Paul’s Church - but now community help is needed to match fund a percentage of the grant.
In 2010 the church faced closure but locals took action to unless action to clean it up, forming a group to put the current project plan together which aims to conserve and re-establish the church as a resource for the whole community.
It has been driven by a group of volunteers who formed the Algarkirk Major Project Group (AMPG), with the support of parish priest Father Gary Morgan, the Diocese of Lincoln and the village community.
Father Morgan said: “The church used to be a focus for village life, and now it is hoped that, thanks to the vision and hard work of the project group, it can become so again – not just as a place of worship, which it will always be, but also as a centre of heritage, learning, and community enjoyment.”
“The initial funds will enable the group to consult with technical building and architectural professionals and to employ a project officer who will focus on making sure students, experts and, above all, the local community can be involved in returning St Peter and St Paul to its former glory,” said AMPG founding member Diana Reid. “Plans for the next two years, before we submit our application for full project funding, include taster workshops in stained glass conservation, stone masonry and other traditional crafts.
“The AMPG will also be hosting activities for the community so information about the project can be shared. Look out for coffee mornings and a book swap, which will now take place on every second Saturday of the month, and on the October 24, the project group hosted a Ladies Pamper evening at the village hall,” explained Jayne Maskell, also a founder member of the AMPG.
A spokesman from the Diocese of Lincoln Church Buildings Department said: “This is a Grade I listed building of national significance. It is a large Fenland church, the earliest parts of which date from the late 12th century, with phases of development following in 13th, 14th, and late 15th centuries. Between 1850 and 1854 the church was extensively restored by R. C. Carpenter, who collaborated with the famous Victorian designers J. G. Crace, Hardman & Co. and A.W.N. Pugin to produce a stunning scheme of decoration in the chancel. Later, a substantial scheme of stained glass windows by the important nineteenth-century manufacturers Clayton and Bell was installed.”
The project’s success now depends on the support of the local community - with about £40,000 now having to be met by the group and its supporters.
The aim is for this to be achieved through local fundraising, and through volunteer work at the church.
Father Morgan added: “Algarkirk has become a fragmented community geographically. We hope this development will help draw everyone together. But without the support of our community, we cannot succeed,”
“This initial grant is not the end of the story,” said AMPG leader Audrey Young. “This is only the first step in our aim to make St Peter and St Paul a community resource for the next 100 years. But it does mean, as they say, that we are now ‘in it to win it’”
Vanessa Harbar head of HLF East Midlands said: “We’re pleased to provide initial support to restore this historically-important church. The village community have worked hard to get to this point in their quest to secure the future of the building and open it up for wider community use. We now look forward to working with the group to help plans develop further.”