Church faces up to towering challenge

THERE will be good cheer among the congregation at St Mary s Church in Baldock if they manage to achieve a challenging goal by Christmas. They must raise about �100,000 if they are not to lose a �166,000 grant from English Heritage. The money is urgently

THERE will be good cheer among the congregation at St Mary's Church in Baldock if they manage to achieve a challenging goal by Christmas.

They must raise about �100,000 if they are not to lose a �166,000 grant from English Heritage.

The money is urgently needed to save the 700-year-old church tower.

The parish has already raised �50,000 towards the total �400,000 cost of erecting scaffolding on all four sides of the tower and securing masonry that is in danger of falling onto the churchyard and footpath below.

But English Heritage imposes match funding and time conditions on its grants and despite huge efforts the Friends of St Mary's, formed three years ago, fear that without help from the wider community they may lose the vital �166,000.

Because of the danger of falling masonry, the churchyard footpath is closed. If the work does not go ahead as planned in March 2010, the footpath will remain closed and scaffolding and netting will encase the tower for years to come.

Most Read

Mick Camp, churchwarden of St Mary's, said: "There are many people in Baldock and further afield who have an association with the church through services, baptisms, weddings and funerals.

"We are appealing to all those people to support the tower project in any way they can. We'd love them to join the Friends of St Mary's or make a donation by sponsoring a stone or other piece of work.

"If we don't raise this daunting amount by the end of the year, the substantial English Heritage grant could be lost and it would be unlikely the work could go ahead."

Major reparations to the tower were last carried out on the Grade 1 listed building in 1841, when metal nails were driven into the soft stonework and linked together with coarse string to hold the render in place. This relatively crude method has served the tower well for 170 years.

But the nails have now rusted and are breaking away, loosening large chunks of masonry. The action of water and frost, particularly during recent severe winters, has opened the cracks, increasing the danger of huge chunks falling to the ground below.

The rector of St Mary's, the Rev Andrew Holford, said: "We are very fortunate to receive a grant of �166,000 from English Heritage and a further �22,000 from other grant awarding bodies.

"We've made further grant applications from other bodies, but there is no direct government or local authority financial support for buildings such as St Mary's and with so many ancient churches across the country needing repair there is no money available directly from the church authorities.

"So we are left to organise our own fund raising for this essential work to save the tower which is an important landmark and part of Baldock's rich archaeological history - and it has to be done quickly."

For further information on how you can help, ring 01462 893418.

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter