The Re-opening of Ufford Church

At 11.00 on Sunday 5 July a well-attended informal ceremony was held to mark the re-opening of St.Andrew’s, Ufford. Canon Haydn Smart - who coincidentally had officiated at the last service before closure  welcomed everyone to the church. He recalled that at the end of the last service he had told the congregation to view the church as resting for a time rather than being lost forever. And now here we all are at the re-opening. After a prayer there was a rousing rendition of the hymn “Let all the world in every corner sing” accompanied by Jack Spires on the the newly-tuned Tickell organ.

Peter Aiers, the Churches Conservation Trust’s (CCT) Regional Director for the South East Region, then welcomed everyone on behalf of the Trust. He outlined the nature and role of the Trust and then summarised  the restoration project at St.Andrew’s which is the 346th church it has adopted. He expressed his gratitude for the help of those involved in Ufford and said how much he had enjoyed the project, not least because it had enabled new restoration techniques to be implemented.  

Keith Lievesley then reminded the audience that on October 3, on the occasion of the transfer of keys from the Church Commissioners/Diocese to the CCT, he had commented that, for those who had been members of the Parochial Church Council that had taken the fateful decision to close the church back in 2010, the transfer was a day of quiet satisfaction. So now, to see the church in its best condition for a century or so, was an occasion of great joy. On behalf of the surviving members of the PCC and, indeed, of the village as a whole, he thanked the CCT for its adoption of St.Andrew’s and its commitment of substantial resources to its conservation and restoration.  After the transfer in October the builders began in November so the project has occurred at a remarkable speed and with amazing results.

The project has involved complete renewal of the Collyweston slates on the chancel and re-leading of the north and south aisles. The tower and window surrounds and other stonework has been pointed/replaced. The porch has been re-plastered, re-painted and provided with a new gate. The rainwater goods have been renewed. The aisle windows have been removed and restored. The memorial tablets have been conserved and the Carre Memorial has been partially dismantled and secured. The Decalogue, George III coat of arms and the Duke of Rutland’s hatchments have been cleaned and conserved. The church has been re-wired, heaters placed under the seats, the lights cleaned and re-painted and spotlights placed in the chancel. Panelling in the north and south aisles – where dampness was discovered to be a problem – has been partially replaced as has that in the vestry. The clock has been restored as have the bells which rang out as people entered the church.

Whilst there were minor repairs in the 1940’s and 1970’s this is the first major work since the mid-C19th and early 20th. In the 1850’s the rood screen was removed together with the box pews and the double-decker pulpit. In 1883 the C13th chancel, the oldest part of the church, was re-roofed, the east wall was re-built and the floor was lowered. In the early C20th the Lowndes windows were inserted. So what has occurred in the last 6 months is not an everyday occurrence.

Since restoration began in November the CCT and Messenger Construction held two open-days in March and May when various craftsmen attended to talk about their skills and what they were contributing to the work.  There was also a very successful visit by children from Barnack School who came to learn about church buildings. From a conservation perspective, Messenger Construction and the CCT ran an all-day seminar for building professionals to demonstrate their new accelerated technique for producing Collyweston slates. St.Andrew’s has been an important demonstration project that will have much wider  implications for the conservation of historic buildings.   

Keith Lievesley said that it was appropriate that those people who have spent all or part of the last 6 to 7 months working on the church should be mentioned:
The CCT’s conservation projects manager  :  GABRIELLA MISURIELLO
Architects  : REES BOLTER
The Messenger Construction team  :
Contracts Manager : BRIAN MORRELL
Site Manager : WAYNE GRAY
Collyweston Slater : DARREN ELLIS
Slater’s Apprentice : SAMUEL HOLMES
Carpenters :
Stonemasons :  
The independent specialist contractors :
Arte Conservation Ltd : restoration of the hatchments and coats of arms
Lincolnshire Stained Glass Studio : restoration of the windows
Skillington Workshop : restoration of the monuments
Matthew Higby and Co. Ltd : restoration of the bells
Gillette and Johnson : restoration of the clock
C.E.L : new leadwork to the north and south aisle roofs
Eviva Services Ltd : electricals
High Wire : Roof security system
PJ Slater : Scaffolding

But the project doesn’t stop here because the aim now is not just to open the church for visitors to admire its beauty but to ensure that it is used.  With regard to religious uses then the transfer to the CCT allows 6 Sunday services and more or less anything else in between. Funeral services can be held again with the Vicar’s consent. Weddings can be held on an individual basis subject to permission from the CCT and the Vicar and the obtaining of a licence from the Archbishop of Canterbury. However,  because of an agreement between the  C of E and the CCT there is a fee of £450. Wedding blessings can also take place in the church. On 15 August there will be a service arranged in co-ordination with the British Legion to commemorate VJ Day. The first “church service” will be on Sunday, 30 August.  Later in the year, on 20 December, there will be a service of Lessons and Carols. 

In order to plan the services and a wider set of activities  - be it concerts, exhibitions or whatever - a Friend’s Group will be established. A model constitution will be adopted and officers appointed.  It is hoped to attract patrons and develop a web-site.  It will also be necessary to establish rotas of  people willing to clean the church, provide flowers when necessary and lock and unlock the church on a daily basis. Sally Hudson has made a splendid start by setting up a new key rota.  A Village Social Committee has been established and the Friends’ activities are being included in the calendar of village social activities for the year. These will also generate essential funds.
At the end of the speeches refreshments were served and the audience invited to look at the work undertaken and, hopefully, to sign up to become a Friend or become a supporter of the Churches Conservation Trust.

If anyone else wishes to become a Friend please contact either:
Keith Lievesley (Tel: 01780-740679)
or Peter and Sally Hudson (01780-740475).