Action stations in battle to save our heritage

St. Mary's Church, Banbury. Revd. Jeff West and wall decoration water damage. NNL-150902-170214009
St. Mary's Church, Banbury. Revd. Jeff West and wall decoration water damage. NNL-150902-170214009

Throughout the years churches across the country have been something many of us marvel at in terms of its architecture, such as Westminster Abbey built as far back as the 10th Century.

But as time goes on, these once impressive structures begin to show signs of their age and are in need of updating.

Last year English Heritage published its ‘At Risk Register’ and identified three churches in Banburyshire and three churches in South Northamptonshire as ‘at risk’ of falling into further disrepair through neglect, decay or inappropriate development.

St Mary’s Church on Horse Fair in Banbury has become a landmark structure in the centre of the town having been built in the late 18th Century and even features a plaque commemorating Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels.

Revd Jeff West, associate priest, said: “I think it is really important to preserve the church for future generations, which is also important for the town and those people who visit.

“The church acts as a powerful symbol for the presence of the Christian faith but it is also the most important historical building in Banbury. It is a great attraction for visitors and could play an important part in the regeneration and growth of the Old Town.”

Revd West added the church has applied for a grant from the National Heritage Monument Fund which would repair stonework and water damage near the main altar.

Another church identified is the Church of St Lawrence in Milcombe. The Grade II-listed building dates back to the 13th Century and was restored in 1859.

Despite the church being recognised on the register, grant-aided repairs to its roof slating, north aisle, chancel, porch and vestry are now under way.

The final church is the Church of St Peter ad Vincula in South Newington. This Grade I-listed building is a late Norman church consisting of a chancel, nave and north aisle, with extremely fine medieval wall paintings depicting scenes from the Passion and Last Judgement.

An English Heritage/Heritage Lottery Fund was given in 2009 for repairs to the nave roof structure and ceiling, with similar work to the chancel roof.

But a report on the wall paintings carried out at the same time revealed deteriorating conditions which put the building ‘at risk’.

Churches in South Northamptonshire include the Church of St Leonard, Aston-le-Walls, Church of St John the Baptist, Upper Boddington and All Saints Church in Middleton Cheney.