The Church was cherished and cared for under the patronage of the great and wealthy de la Pole and Wingfield families until the chaos of the Reformation and the various destroyers throughout the 17th and 18th centuries. Three centuries of neglect ensued - various records show that the Chancel and the Lady Chapel particularly were allowed to fall into decay shamefully. The prosperity of the 19th century resulted throughout the country generally in a desire to refurbish church buildings. Many features were lost in a well intentioned drive to modernise.
From 1866-80 a major restoration took place but then for the next 100 years little could be done beyond running repairs. Although the Church enjoys the wholehearted support of local people who cherish their fine inheritance, the upkeep of such a large Grade 1 listed building presents a real challenge.
By the 1980s it became clear that a huge restoration programme was urgently needed. With little cash in hand it was decided to proceed one phase at a time, but on the basis that all work done must be of the highest quality. The first phase in 1985/86 was primarily concerned with the overhaul and re-leading of the roofs of the South Aisle and the South Porch, together with the renewal of the drainage system.
Phase 2 involved further work
on roofs plus the refurbishment
of windows. The roofs of the North and South Chapels plus the
South Aisle and the long North Aisle, all of which were in a very
poor state, were totally overhauled and re-leaded. The Great East
Window along with those in the North Chapel as well as all 24
clerestory windows, were taken out and rebuilt using new lead and
new bronze glazing bars. In addition the stone
tracery was also repaired or renewed.
Phase 3 involving the tower was completed in 2002. The six bells, the oldest dating back to 1596, and their steel supporting frame were taken down. The bells were overhauled and the frame sandblasted and painted. A new roof was fitted to the tower and much work done to improve its structural integrity.
Phase 4 is now completed. This involved re-roofing the whole of the Chancel and the Nave. To facilitate the use of the church for services the task was tackled in two stages - first the Chancel and then the Nave. The crumbling and badly decayed cedar shingles were removed and replaced with top quality English oak shingles. All the timbers below were repaired and replaced where necessary, the gables were rebuilt and the capstone and cross repaired and all the guttering and downpipes have been overhauled.
This last phase cost about £171,000 and will mean that more than £500,000 will
have been spent on refurbishment of the church since 1985. That this has been
possible is thanks to the wonderful generosity of local people, with considerable
support from English Heritage and from various charitable Trusts. We are deeply
grateful to all who have helped.
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