How does a small rural village with tiny population of 115 manage to keep their wonderful medieval church going? Middleton on the Hill shows what can be done with hard work and commitment to their vision.

St Mary the Virgin Church in Middleton on the Hill has a 12th century nave and a large tower which was added later in the 13th century. The PCC was aware of the increasingly important need to repair the nave roof and repoint the church. The nave roof had an uneven surface on the south side and on the north side tiles were exfoliating badly, causing danger as fragments slid off the roof into the churchyard below. The PCC also knew that the outer part of the roof structure above the nave walls, had a number of iron straps holding rafters to the wall plate timbers, some of which had been encased in concrete presumably because they were rotten and many no longer connected to rafters as a result of rot and vermin. On top of this it was clearly visible that the tower stonework and pointing was badly eroded on three sides with cement regularly falling out of the walls presenting a danger to passers by.

The PCC was horrified to discover that the work was estimated at £162.500 having just raised £28,000 in 2008 for the previous project. But it continued to fundraise and when it received a generous legacy of £30,000 it felt that the repair project was now viable and so in 2010 the PCC decided to proceed.

At the 2011 Quinquennial Survey their architect confirmed that both the nave roof and the tower needed urgent work. The PCC sought the help of another local architect, who gave outline work specifications and from these the PCC sought informal estimates from a selection of local contractors. The next step was to apply to English Heritage (EH) for a substantial grant. This application was supported by the Architect’s report, the Quinquennial Survey and a set of photos of each joint between roof truss and wallplate. The pictures revealed that 39 out of 44 rafters had iron straps bolted to support rotted ends. In due course EH sent a visiting architect to assess the situation which confirmed the Architects opinion that roof and tower work was urgent. To help the grant applications and fund raising, the PCC applied for ‘At Risk’ status, which was granted a year later.

Outline of events from initial decision through to completion:

2010 Project undertaken

2011 Quinquennial Survey highlights the need for urgent repairs to roof and tower walls

Outline estimates obtained for repairs

Consultations with architect, Diocesan Buildings Advisor, Diocesan Property Manager and Pudlestone warden.

Initial application to EH submitted and then withdrawn after realising mistake in application.

2012 Application resubmitted with increased grant request

EH inspection and report confirmed the need and so a project development grant and a provisional repair grant offer were made.

Requested ‘At Risk’ status to aid grant applications – EH granted in 2014

2013 EH Development Contract signed

Architect appointed

Grant fundraising applications started.

Appropriate plans and reports conducted.

At this stage HHCT gave St Mary’s a grant for £1,600 for this investigative stage of the project.

2014 Draft work specification completed and submitted to EH; EH approved an increased work specification.

Faculty granted on 18 September 2014

Draft contract out to tender, then evaluated and submitted to EH

EH approved main contractor

EH made an enhanced repair grant offer to cover extra work.

In October 2014 HHCT gave St Mary’s £7,000 for the main stage of the project.

2015 17 Jan 15 Work started

24 Jun Work completed three days early and on budget.

The HHCT award Grants in April and October each year, why not have a think what a HHCT grant could do for your Church. Can you do anything for HHCT?

Herefordshire Historic Churches Trust