New tower and steeple at village church thanks to six-figure grant

The former tower  and spire  which had to be demolished
The former tower and spire which had to be demolished

Worshippers at an historic village church near Horncastle will soon by reaching for the heavens...thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The Lottery has given a £200,000 grant to St Margaret’s in Thimbleby.

The money will enable a major restoration programme to go ahead, including building a new tower and steeple.

There has been a church on the site for hundreds of years, although the current structure was largely re-built in 1879 , including a new tower and steeple.

Unfortunately, the lime mortar used at the time featured a high percentage of corrosive salts that spread through the structure, dissolving the limestone to such an extent that the spire had to be taken down in 2014 because it was so dangerous.

At the time, there was even a threat the church would be demolished.

However, a dedicated ‘project team’ has campaigned tirelessly to save St Margaret’s.

Their efforts have paid off.

Initially, the group secured a £20,00 Lottery grant to help develop the project.

Now, the £200,000 grant means work will start next Monday (February 12).

The Rev John Parkin has led the campaign.

He said: “It is easy to forget the Heritage Lottery Fund is paid for by the lottery players.

”Without their contributions, we would have lost one of the most beautifully sited churches in Lincolnshire.”

Jeanne Goulbourne, a former churchwarden for many years, said: “We are so grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund. This is wonderful, after it seemed our church would be demolished.”

The Rev Charles Patrick, rector and chairman of the Group Parochial Church Council, said: “This is fantastic news and a huge relief.

“The hard work of the project team has paid off. A restored church will be of great benefit to Thimbleby, thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund.”

Jonathan Platt, Head of the Fund in the East Midlands, added: “Historic places of worship like St Margaret’s have fascinating stories to tell.”

It is not just lottery funding which has raised the all important money.

Rev Parkin and fellow campaigners have thanked the generous support of the local community.

The work is due to be completed by early July. By then, contractors will have replaced the spire, taken down and rebuilt the belfry, repaired the clock, tackled numerous repairs to the tower and created new entrance steps with provision for disabled access.

Plans are already underway for a grand celebration to mark the end of the work, recreating a party held 179 years ago when the first tower was completed.

However, more restoration work will be needed. It is hoped to secure funding for a new roof and much needed improvement work on the interior.

Running parallel to the restoration work, the village Church Council, The Friends of St Margaret’s and the project team will be running a series of heritage activities.

They will tell the history of the village and its church, as well as the problems that led to the spire being taken down - ironically, when at the same time the neighbouring 16th Century mud and stud thatched cottages are still standing proud.