An historically significant parish church has been gifted £10,000 by the Heritage Lottery Fund to develop a £1.7million project to make it a regional and national tourist destination and community resource.
St Andrew’s Church in Heckington has received the £10,000 grant for an exciting project to reveal it as a medieval masterpiece.
Parishioners working in partnership with locally-based Heritage Lincolnshire will coordinate vital conservation studies, research and development work to achieve a long term vision to transform this exciting, but overlooked church, into a multi- use village asset, and promote its unique and historically significant character across the region and nationally. The £10,000 will pay for various experts to deliver this.
St Andrew’s was built in 1320 on a regal scale, as a result of its early royal connections, leaving a small rural village with a church of almost cathedral proportions and decoration.
The founders, led by King Edward II’s chancellor Richard de Potesgrave, utilized the very best craftsmen of the day to construct a truly remarkable church of enormous size and quality.
The project’s Engagement team Leader, Pete Banks, said: “The standard of masonry and carving inside the church is of the highest possible grade that could be achieved in 1320. It is like having a Michelangelo in your church and then the Black Death wiped out all these skilled craftsmen and the techniques were lost for a generation.”
The work of the masons, carvers, engineers and glaziers is greatly appreciated by locals, specialists and historians, but unknown among the wider public.
The building is in dire need of modern heating, lighting and refurbishment to make it usable as a multi- use facility for the village, and to promote its unique historical and architectural features.
Mr Banks said the overall project is valued at around £1.7 million. “The heating was put in 100 years ago and it hasn’t properly cleaned for centuries,” he said. “We need all the historical attractions inside the church renovated and restored which requires specialists and quite a few things we have are quite unique.”
The team of villagers with a wide range of skills and backgrounds want to make it more ‘user friendly’, removing the pews to make it suitable for functions, services, performances and events.
Mr Banks said: “It was built for music. Edward II and Richard de Potesgrave were great fans of music and it has fairly sophisticated acoustics, acting like an enormous amplifier in certain parts.”
It would also have an area dedicated to modern interpretation aids for tourists. Acoustic engineers from Newcastle University are working on developing a ‘sonic signature’ of the church leading to a phone ‘app’ which would not only give audio and written information, but also the sound and a representation of what the church would have looked like in 1320 wherever you point your phone.
The group behind the potentially three to four year project want to make sure the community is on board and expresses what it wants to see the church used for as a community asset, establishing a Friends group, developing volunteers’ skills through training, mentoring and bring in additional advice to help develop new and exciting ways to reimagine and interpret this wonderful space and its heritage.
The project will be launched in the Heritage Area at this year’s 150th Heckington Show where it will be promoted, asking people to stay connected.
Mr Banks said: “We are trying to get into every household as well as those that may have used the church or former Heckingtonians and inform them this is not necessarily a religious function. It is a community asset we should all cherish and get involved in.”
The team has drawn on the experience of the successful Heckington Mill project which also received close to £1 million in HLF money to develop it as another regional heritage attraction, meaning that if this latest venture is successful, the village could become a key heritage tourism destination, drawing people to stay all day and spend in local eateries and the brewery and use the local train services.
Lesley Pinchbeck, St Andrew’s Church Warden, commented: “This project is the catalyst for which Heckington has been waiting for centuries – where the creativity of the 14th century community meets and inspires that of the 21st.”
Alison Berwick, of Heritage Lincolnshire, commented: “We are delighted to be supporting St Andrew’s Church in developing their long term visions for the church for the benefit of the whole community in Heckington. The church has so many rich and wonderful stories to tell and this project offers the potential for these to be developed for all to hear.”
Jonathan Platt, Head of HLF East Midlands, said: “St Andrew’s in Heckington is a beautiful and unusual church, and we are delighted that National Lottery players have been able to provide the support necessary to develop plans for its future”.