It’s a very long time since William Burke suggested that it would be nice to mark the spot in the churchyard where the Saxon Cross stood. (The base of the cross is now inside the church) The Trust took up the project and allocated a fund towards it. I am delighted to report finally the Clipsham stone plaque was installed during August at the precise place where the cross originally stood.
You can find it laid in the grass between the East window and the Kissing Gate and the main path and the ringers’ path.
Daniel Wilson of Stamford Stone said he would not only donate the stone but would gift the Trust the entire cost of engraving and delivery. A huge thank you Daniel.
The 300 year old clock face was in a very poor state. the face had not been restored for 30 years and was in desperate need of re-painting and the figures required re-gilding. Steeplejacks were here for other work and carried out the necessary painting. They stripped the face and re-painted it and gold leafed the figures and hands as well as checking the fixings to ensure stability. This cost £1265. However, a total of £1265 was quickly passed so the enamelling proceeded with the arrival of good weather. More than £3000 was raised allowing further work on the clock’s mechanism.
The Lady Chapel Roof is completed at last. The Quinquennial reports in both 2008 and 2013 identified that this section of roof needed re-slating and re-leading. Heritage Roofing Ltd were the contractors and work commenced in late October and was completed by the end of November.
Fantastic news – the funding for this costly but vital repair is now secured as follows –
St. Kyneburgha Building Preservation Trust £5,000
Fitzwilliam Trust £5,000
Castor & Ailsworth Parochial Church Council £7,760
Cambridge Historic Churches Trust £5,000
The Pattson Trust £2,500
Less cost of project Works £20,070
CDM co-ordinator £1,200
Bat Survey £600
Expected or hoped for savings £2,600
Re-claim VAT £4,806
Total Cost of Project £31,436
Short Fall £6,176
Expected savings and reclaim £7,406
Surplus or safeguard £1,230
A company of stonemasons is currently in the process of re-cutting Edmund Tyrell Artis’s headstone at a cost to the Trust of approximately £500. The lettering on the headstone, which is just outside the south door porch, was badly weathered and parts becoming indecipherable. Edmund Tyrell Artis (1789-1847), has emerged as one of the leading early British archaeologists who first made a comprehensive study of the landscape around Castor, revealing its true importance particularly from Roman times. The lettering has caused some controversy. It was to have been restored as it originally was with black enamelled lettering but it appears that this is contrary to current graveyard rules!!! Conservation v Modernisation?
St Kyneburgha churchyard has some ten stone chest tombs all in various state of decay due to the elements and encroaching ivy. Hence the loss of some inscriptions and displacement of stones.
The tomb to the south east of the church, adjacent to the footpath is so damaged as to be declared a safety hazard. Funds have been provided by the Trust to repair the tomb. Work has consisted of carefully removing all the stones, laying a new concrete base and building a brick inner core for support. The stones have been cleaned, repaired as necessary and the tomb rebuilt using stainless steel dowels and cramps to reinforce the structure. Missing stones have been replaced with salvaged stone, including the badly damaged top. Work was completed in the first half of 2014 by local craftsman, Mark Sharpin.
The Trust has funded £2000 for the replacement of sodden timber and lead flashing in a tricky to access area over the top of the oldest part of the church. Once the interior has completely dried out we will look at the lime plaster damage to the walls. This is a small but fascinating room at the top of a narrow spiral staircase on the way up to the Bell Tower. It was the space for an “on duty” priest to sleep and work at a time when there was always someone present in the church.
Don Mackreth, a former head of archaeology for developments in and around Peterborough, considered the room to be the oldest meeting room still in public use. Today the bell ringers use it for training.
Easily overlooked, the space contains some interesting detail – two unpainted wingless angels, a stone calf’s head perhaps and a urinal probably used by bellringers of long ago. The room is sited above what would have been St. Kyneburgha’s shrine where the organ is located today. The doorway to this room is probably 10C and the stone walls may sit directly on Roman foundations. The walls are from the 11/12C but the roof is relatively modern dating from about 1450.
Remedial work has been carried out by Colin Hussey’s team, supervised by William Baxter.
Many of you will remember the scruffy lean to shed, which previously occupied this site. Rudimentary but serviceable it filled the need for storage for many years and contained an amazing amount of stuff that might come in handy one day.
Some time during 2009 the need for more secure storage became urgent and so a new building was suggested. Plans were drawn up and the St.Kyneburgha Building Preservation Trust was approached to fund the project. The Trust agreed willingly, feeling that the proposed building would enhance the Churchyard as well as providing the much needed storage. The project initially acquired the name Theo’s Barn as Theo Hensman, long standing Church Warden, was the main user of the shed. Plans were drawn, permission sought, tenders sent out and the site cleared. Thanks to the generosity of so many people the Trust raised and ring fenced the money needed, some £10,000. However, due to the recession the PCC decided it should be temporarily shelved. It had always been the Trust’s aim to complete this project and with Antonia Pounsett installed as Trust Chairman, a group headed by Brian Gibson was appointed to do just that but this time with a larger capacity. Plans were re-drawn, a new spec. established, planning permission sought and tenders invited. The new quotation came in at double the original one, which was quite a financial undertaking for the Trust but there was a strong commitment to complete. Maffitt Construction, a local company, won the contract and produced the lovely building you see today after working with care due to the challenges of Roman remains and forgotten services.
Theo’s Byre was finally dedicated and opened by Theo Hensman and Lady Isabella Naylor-Leyland on the 14th October 2012.
An observant Church Warden noticed this contagious fungus and acted immediately. Dry rot develops in a moist environment, decays wood from the inside – so is unseen until it has done its worst. The spores remain in stone, plaster, soil and wood ready to attack more wood. The PCC commissioned a thorough investigation to identify the extent of the rot, and raised a variety of possibilities as to the source of the moisture. This survey gave the church a clean bill of health on other hazards like death-watch beetle and woodworm. It was decided that this would be an ideal project for the Trust at an estimated cost of around £10,000 (excluding VAT which as a charity the Trust can reclaim).
Once invited by the PCC to get involved, the Trust combined project management, organising quotes, appointment of suppliers plus funding and contributes to a discussion about the “look and feel” of the finished work. The benefit of being a charity meant that we could reclaim VAT and apply for a loan, conserving funding for an alternative project. With advice from the Diocesan Architect, the project completed in late 2010.
‘Project Rot’ successfully requested a loan from The Cambridgeshire Historic Churches Trust
Project Rot Time scales
|July||PCC identified problem, commissioned survey and asked the St Kyneburgha’s Trust to help|
|August||Trust gathered quotations and identified preferred funding option. William Baxter appointed to co-ordinate project|
|September||CHCT met and discussed loan application. St.KBPT looked at alternative funding. Repair and replacement work began.|
|October||Work targeted to take 4 weeks|
Arguably some of these become essential if left and of course any conservation work prolongs the life of the fabric and can forestall later trouble. We can only carry out this work if it is grant aided, our own funds being insufficient despite enthusiastic fund raising. We nickname these projects ‘warm and cosies’ as there is a good feeling when they are achieved! From conception to completion can be months if not a year or two as the grant obtaining process can be lengthy, in addition to the time needed to obtain a faculty and go out to tender. We are always thrilled when a charitable trust awards us a grant as they have many calls on their resources.
The restoration of the south porch was one such. This dates from 1220/30 when the south aisle was added. Hugh Harrison, one of our leading timber conservationists, carried out the treatment and conservation of the roof timbers. After discussions with English Heritage it was decided not to attempt to restore the angels you can see on the roof of the porch to their former painted glory. It was felt they might look modern and garish, as the fragments of original paint were not extensive enough to indicate the former colours. A good example that complete restoration is not always the best solution. We are very grateful to the Council for the Care of Churches for their generosity towards this project.
At the same time the Church was given beautiful wooden notice boards made locally, a bequest from the Pell Family.
The existing electric heating, originally installed in around 1947 was proving inadequate for today’s congregation. Over the years, modifications and ageing appliances were not heating the building to the levels needed for modern requirements. In 2004, a small team was established to research and install a new system. In 2007, a gas fired system with radiators around the walls and across the centre of the church was installed.
This has proved to be very satisfactory and much appreciated by all who use the church. In the process of finding a suitable place for the boiler assembly a room under the Lady Chapel was reopened. In it, was a Victorian heater, connected to the main section by means of a large duct. Evidence of grills in the Lady Chapel and choir stalls was also uncovered. This system had existed until 1947 when it was replaced by electric tubes. The heater was removed and the boiler installed in its stead.
The total cost of the gas fired installation was c£80,000. The Trust contributed £17,500, including the proceeds from a specially arranged Open Gardens event at Milton Hall. Funds were raised by functions and appeals within the villages, donations and external grants.
At one of the St.Kyneburgha Trust’s regular meetings William our Rector casually announced that the broken piece of masonry lying on the chancel floor was actually a medieval mensa (table/altar) and wouldn’t it be good if it were restored? It was in three pieces and before being brought back into the Church had made up part of the path leading to the priest’s door into the chancel. The size of the slab – 6½ft x 3ft –and the fact it was bevelled on three sides and square cut on one long side indicated it was the old high altar originally set against the East wall of the chancel.
It was decided to reinstall it in the Church and the Lady Chapel was reordered to accommodate it. The Trust was asked to undertake the restoration of the altar in 2003, which we did with generous grants from the Council for the Care of Churches, The Jack Patson Memorial Trust and the Frances Coal Foundation to whom we are extremely grateful. The slab itself was restored by the Skillington Workshop and re-set on 6 bluestone columns, the design of which reflected the origins of the altar and worked well with the Barnack rag from which the altar is carved.
The refurbished altar looks beautiful in the Lady Chapel where it is in weekly use. If you visit look for the crosses on the corners of the stone slab which again underline its earlier use. You may also notice the altar is against the south wall of the chapel. Although traditionally altars face East they don’t have to – God is everywhere!
We are incredibly lucky to have in the church a significant 8th Century Saxon carving. It is thought to be part of the sarcophagus of St.Kyneburgha. The pattern and shape of the carving would suggest it came from the Peterborough School, 8/9th century master sculptors, probably based at the Abbey of Medeshamstede. The fact that the figures in the carving are standing on tiptoe and their limbs are visible through their garments is indicative of this period. The figure is possibly that of St.Mark with Mathew on his left and Luke on his right.
The carving was found buried in sand under the then altar rails during a re-ordering of the chancel in 1924. At that time it was placed on the South wall of the sanctuary.
By 2002 it was in serious need of conservation work as the iron pins holding it to the wall were very rusty and in danger of marking the carving. The Trust was asked to fund this project, which was undertaken by the Skillington Workshop. We did not have enough money ourselves to fund this and are very grateful to The Barbara Whatmore Trust for making the conservation and resiting of this important carving possible.
It had long been felt that such an important piece should be better displayed and so after considerable discussions with English Heritage and the Diocese it was agreed that on its return to the Church but would be resited on the East wall of the north aisle, close to where the original shrine of St.Kyneburgha is thought to have been. It is an interesting thought that although we have just one piece, the rest of the frieze surrounding the tomb may well be somewhere in the Church.
Soon after the formation of the Trust in 2001 it was discovered the 15th century east window was falling out. It was quite literally moving in the wind! Our newly appointed but very experienced Church Architect, Julian Limentani, initiated us into the mysteries of faculties, grant applications and all the necessary processes that have to be gone through when dealing with a grade 1 listed building. Scaffolding went up externally and internally overnight and several brides were warned to include metal poles in their wedding flower schemes!
The urgency of the situation plus our naive enthusiasm made everyone extra helpful. We were unbelievably fortunate to be given a grant by English Heritage and thanks to them and Julian our first project came in on time and under budget. Although it had been a steep and slightly frightening learning curve it did give our fledgling organization some knowledge and great confidence for future projects.
Incidentally every time there is a repair on the fabric of the Church we learn something of its past. During these repairs large masonry foundations were found beneath the Sanctuary. This would strengthen the argument that the chancel was originally apsidal (round ended) as was common with Norman Churches. Fragments of the three Early English lancet windows, which were originally in the east wall, were found being used as rubble fill in.