Church restoration in the national spotlight

Thornhill Parish Church, which is shortlisted for an award 20 years of regeneration, costing a total of �1.3m.
Thornhill Parish Church, which is shortlisted for an award 20 years of regeneration, costing a total of �1.3m.
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A historic church that has undergone a £1.3m redevelopment spanning two decades has been shortlisted for a prestigious award.

Plans to restore the Grade I listed Thornhill Parish Church began around 20 years ago and now the efforts of workers, and the patience of parishioners, has been recognised by the Historic England Angel Awards.

Thornhill Parish Church, which is shortlisted for an award 20 years of regeneration, costing a total of �1.3m.'Marion Wilson, Brian Pearson, Tony Ridley, Christine Ridley

Thornhill Parish Church, which is shortlisted for an award 20 years of regeneration, costing a total of �1.3m.'Marion Wilson, Brian Pearson, Tony Ridley, Christine Ridley

Project manager Brian Pearson, who has been involved since the beginning, said getting to the finals in the Best Rescue or Repair of a Place of Worship category was a coup for everyone involved.

He said: “I think it’s very nice to have recognition for all the work that many, many people have done over the last 20 years and to give a thank you to the congregation for putting up with it.

“At the time we started there was a risk that the church would have to close because of all the repairs required. It’s been a long journey but we can now pass it on to the next generation in superb condition.”

The work included the roof being re-leaded, a whole new drainage system put in place, and the restoration of monuments and stained glass windows that go back hundreds of years. The floor, which was made of different materials, was replaced with York stone slabs and all the medieval windows were taken out and restored. New disabled access paths and a parking space were installed.

All the monuments, some of which were “falling apart”, were cleaned and repaired.

Floodlights were installed and interactive display computer display was designed and placed in the Savile Chapel, built in 1447.

Experts note that the church was first mentioned in the Domesday Book 1086, but the fragments of Anglo-Saxon memorials – crosses and a grave slab – indicate that there had been a place of worship on the site since at least the 9th century.

Historic England chief executive Duncan Wilson said: “Acknowledging people’s passion and commitment in rescuing historic places is incredibly important. If it weren’t for these unsung heroes getting involved in their local heritage, much of it would be lost forever.

“We need to celebrate their achievement as champions of our heritage.”

The competition will now go to a public vote with the winners to be announced on September 7 at a ceremony in the Palace Theatre, London, which will be hosted by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Visit www.historicengland.org.uk/news-and-features/angel-awards/shortlist-2015/ for a full list of candidates that will battle against Thornhill for the top spot and information on voting.