Wisbech school pupils and the town's wider community will play a vital role in helping St Peter's Church win National Lottery Heritage Funding
A Fenland church is set for a major £600,000 make-over so it is fit for use for the whole community for generations to come.
The Parish Project Team of St Peter’s Church in Wisbech are already celebrating success after receiving a grant of £56,300. Made possible by National Lottery players the grant will help develop a programme of repairs and improvements to the historic building.
Now they are hoping they can go one further and secure another £350,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund with the support of the wider Wisbech community. The money is needed to carry out urgent repairs to the 900-year-old church including to its rotting roof and crumbling masonry.
The project will also include work to modernise the drains to protect the fabric of the building going forward as well as enhancements inside including the addition of toilets and a kitchen.
Val Spriggs, church treasurer and project co-ordinator for the “Church of the Future” scheme, outlined its aims to the children in Year 6 at Ramnoth and Nene School on Thursday.
Ramnoth is a pivotal part of the second round of the grant bid after being included in the development phase as the project’s partner school.
Mrs Spriggs talked to the children about the project and also of the important role they will have to play in its success. She explained part of the lottery bid will need to include evidence of how the church is being inclusive of all parts of the community.
That will include providing shelter and hot food to the homeless thanks to the new facilities as well as making greater use of the church for community events such as a music festival and offering an exhibition space for artists.
She explained numerous groups and organisations have already written letters of support of the bid.
Mrs Spriggs, a retired headteacher, pointed out the school and its pupils will be involved in the project over the next four years - the estimated time it will take to complete the work.
Thursday was to introduce the project and its aims to the children who then spent the morning compiling news articles announcing the lottery funding with the help of Citizen reporter Sarah Cliss. The results of their handiwork will be published in this paper in the next few weeks.
Going forward the children will help create a leaflet outlining the church’s history and highlighting important facts about it including for instance that it is the only church in the country to have two naves under one roof.
Mrs Spriggs said the children would create individual leaflets with one being chosen to be published and made available to younger visitors to St Peter’s in the future.
Pupils will also be given equipment including iPads to help them capture images of the many artefacts to be found in the church so they can be uploaded to an updated website so people can enjoy St Peter’s heritage worldwide.
The initial bid document highlighted the plight of the church stating it is currently on the ‘at risk’ register because its stonework and roof are decaying badly. It said: “Our project will restore and enhance the building so that it can better serve the needs of our growing, multi-cultural community.”
It adds: “Schoolchildren lie at the heart of our project. by learning to produce interpretive documents in an exciting way, and in a variety of languages, the next generation will understand and therefore value their heritage.”
Mrs Spriggs concluded: “We are thrilled to have won the grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund but would not have been able to do so without the support of many groups within the community.
“We’d like to say an enormous thank-you to the Robert Hall Charity and the Elizabeth Wright Trust who have helped us financially, to Karen Crawley and the staff of Ramnoth and Nene School for agreeing to be our partner school, and to the many individuals and organisations who wrote us letters of support. We are so grateful to them all for their help.”
The project’s architect Nicholas Warns is currently drawing up plans for both the repairs and enhancements ready for submission of the second bid this autumn.