St Mary’s is used for worship on a regular basis. Its medieval tower urgently needed repair. St Michael’s was refurbished extensively in 2011. It is still used for worship but provides modern facilities and a welcoming bright, airy space for a wide range of community events. All Saints was burnt down in the Great Fire of Reepham on 18th April 1543 and only a ruined fragment remains.
How the project proceeded
In 2015 a team was formed to organise finance for the repair of St Mary’s Church tower. Inappropriate repairs to the tower carried out in the 1950s, and deterioration through age and weather damage had caused significant disrepair to the roof and quoins of the tower, such that there was a danger of falling masonry. The north aisle of the church suffered from damp penetration and the presence of the wooden pews made repair impossible without their removal.
The existence of three churches in one churchyard is unique to the U.K. and is a significant piece of the heritage of Reepham. In the Spring of 2015 The Three Churches Project Management Team was formed and the team applied for Heritage Lottery Funding to commission reports on the necessary repairs to St Mary’s, the history and origins of the Three Churches and their shared churchyard and as to how best the community and visitors might enjoy the three churches in their unique setting.
The total cost of the Project and associated works exceeded £300,000. The Heritage Lottery Fund provided a first grant of £18,000 to carry out investigative work and obtain the necessary consents and in 2016 it awarded a grant of £218,000 to enable the Project to be implemented. The balance of the cost of the Project has been provided by the generosity of the wider community of Reepham through a Gift Day and local fundraising events.
The Project commenced in Summer 2016: following a geophysical survey, archaeological test pits were dug to try to locate features of the outline of All Saints Church. Pupils from the High School took part in the dig and the recovery of various artefacts.
In August scaffolding to the tower of St Mary’s was erected. Works to the tower included the roof, roof access, metal flagpole and oak louvres in the belfry. Damaged quoins were cut out and replaced in Ancaster stone. The parapets of the tower were found to be badly cracked and have been repaired. The stone lintels were also cracked and weather worn and were cut out and replaced. Extensive flintwork was repointed using the correct lime and sand mortar.
Internally, the pews in the north aisle were removed and were all eagerly bought as part of the fundraising for the Project. The north aisle has been repaired and replastered and will now provide much needed circulation space, temporary seating and the internal rearrangement will enable a Children’s Area to be properly located. A new oak handrail has also been provided to the steps leading from St Mary’s into St Michael’s.
The last stage of the Project was to mark possible features of the outline of All Saints by planting yew borders, to install information boards in the churchyard and the porch of St Mary’s, and to design and print the trail leaflets. A bench has kindly been provided in the churchyard by the Reepham’s Women’s Section of the British Legion. All of these add to the welcoming ambience of the Three Churches of Reepham.
The Project Management Team would like to thank the following professionals and contractors involved in bringing this Project to fruition:
Natasha Hutcheson (Archaeologist and All Saints Project Co-ordinator)
Saul Penfold (Project Heritage Learning Officer)
Ugly Studios (Graphic Designers)
George Ishmael (Landscape Designer)
Nicholas Warns Associates (Project Architect)
Medieval Masonry (Stonemasons and Conservation Builders)
Dig Ventures (Archaeologists)
David Bescoby (Geophysical Surveyor)