Updated August/September 2021
The conservation and restoration of our wall paintings (see below) will take place during September and October 2021 and will include a series of explanatory talks and demonstrations in the church, given by our conservator Tom Organ, of Arte Conservation. For further details of dates and times, please check in the Services and Events section of the website.
We have ambitious plans to secure the future sustainability of St Margaret’s Church. We want to retain its status as an active place of worship, fulfilling a spiritual role within the village of Paston and within the wider Trunch Group of parishes to which we belong. However, this alone will no longer guarantee the viability of our grade-1 listed building. To do so we recognised that we must think and act more imaginatively, to maximise the potential offered by a building which has both usable space and a unique history.
We therefore embarked on a journey to make the building structurally sound and to open it to a new audience of local people and visitors alike………..
- We established a project steering group involving Paston Church Council, Paston Parish Council and the Paston Heritage Society
- We raised almost £180,000 to complete structural repairs and renew the rainwater drainage system in 2014. We repaired three windows between 2016 and 2019 and we now have a building that is safe and weathertight.
- We agreed plans and commissioned architectural drawings for the reconfiguration of the internal layout of the church and the provision of new facilities to enable it to be used for a variety of functions, as a local community facility, as an educational resource, for hosting fund-raising events, and as a continuing place of worship.
- We arranged a professional technical specification for the restoration and conservation of the medieval wall paintings on the north wall and above the chancel arch.
- We went out to tender for the works and for the wall paintings
- We sold a small piece of land that previously housed a derelict village hall
- We were given a generous personal donation towards our project
- We were granted permission to carry out the works and the conservation of the wall paintings through a faculty issued by the Norwich Diocese in August 2019.
..……..and this is where we are now.
To realise our ambitions we needed to raise £290,000 – £130,000 for the wall paintings and reconfiguration of the internal layout to create flexible open space and access, and a further £160,000 for the provision of new facilities.
We have been awarded a grant of £98,500 by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, we will be eligible to recover £42,300 in VAT and we have raised £63,200 from charitable grant giving organisations who are supporting our project. This leaves just over £86,000 which we are pledging from our own resources but which we hope to reduce through further fund raising to enable us to use more of our money to secure a long-term budget for the repair and maintenance of the building.
What will this money achieve?
A repurposing of the church building to generate new life and vibrancy whilst respecting tradition and spiritual sanctity – a place where everyday secular life can sit side by side with religious life, effectively reintroducing to the church its original purpose when it was first built in the C14th!
We have separated our project into two distinct but dovetailed phases:
- Restoring and conserving the wall paintings, and creating the space necessary for unimpeded access, study and interpretation, and to run the associated educational programmes. We will also undertake a number of environmental sustainability activities in the churchyard, and promote walks and trails in the surrounding area.
- Our project will conserve the rare medieval wall paintings at St Margaret’s Church, providing a unique opportunity to open them up to new, all age audiences through a programme of interpretation and activities inspired by the paintings’ physical conservation, through the stories they tell and through their historical context and significance.
The activities will include a series of talks for the local community given by the Conservator throughout the conservation process, ensuring people will be introduced to and learn new skills. Our Activity Co-ordinator will deliver ‘Medieval Mysteries’ art and history workshops for the Coastal Federation of Schools Key Stage 2 pupils, who will also help to write and design a new interpretive trail for the church, focussed around the wall paintings . This will involve and immerse staff and pupils in heritage, enabling them to better explain and identify it for other children and families and in the process becoming ‘heritage ambassadors’.
Our project will also establish St Margaret’s as a ‘heritage and wellbeing hub’, being delivered with the Paston Heritage Society, Paston Footprints Project, (a Lottery-funded programme supported by the University of East Anglia, created around the historical legacy of the Paston Family), and North Norfolk District Council’s ‘Deep History Coast’ initiative, a walking, cycling and touring route which runs very close to the church.
- In addition to the conservation exercise itself, to improve access and visual appreciation of the paintings, we will also remove seven rows of pews on either side of the central aisle, shorten another three rows and relocate the font from the rear of the church to the aisle beyond the newly created open space.
- To anchor and contextualise the heritage programme, we will also introduce a number of environmental sustainability activities around the church, including a wild-flower meadow, a nature trail through the churchyard, the promotion of local walks and trails, and the introduction of additional bird and bat boxes.
- Paston Community Project – reconfiguring the layout of the rear of the church to provide facilities to enable the space to be used flexibly for a variety of purposes by our local community, visitors, and interest groups and for fund-raising events, displays and exhibitions.
- The community project will include installing a mains water supply, accessible toilet and washroom, kitchen area and servery, heating and storage, and creating level access to the church through the north door.
The way forward
These are ambitious and exciting projects which together will breathe new life into Paston church. Timing as we emerge from the immediate impact of the coronavirus pandemic could not be more critical. The future viability of the church depends upon the successful delivery of this new vision for the use of the building which will create the opportunity to build a destination attraction, developing the concept of a ‘pilgrimage church’ for visitors interested in exploring our medieval history and the Paston Family legacy, as well as supporting its continuing role as a place of worship and providing a base for a variety of community and educational activities and events.
Helping us achieve our vision
Please do visit our website from time to time to see how we are progressing. These pages will be regularly updated.
Please come and see the church – get a feel for the before and after! We are open every day with plenty of parking.
Please consider contributing to our fund-raising effort. You can do this by leaving a donation in the secure box inside the church or alternatively by sending a cheque or arranging an electronic transfer direct into our bank account. Should you wish to do either of these, please email our churchwarden and he will provide you with the necessary details:
Thank you very much for taking the time to read about our plans – we hope you have found them interesting, and we look forward to seeing you soon in Paston!
St Margaret’s Church
Paston Heritage Society https://www.thisispaston.co.uk
The Paston Footprints Project https://www.thisispaston.co.uk
The Deep History Coast https://www.visitnorthnorfolk.com