Saving the Tower & The Heritage Lottery

HLF Tower Project Report

The Start

In 2012 St. Peter’s church tower was inspected by the Historic England architect David John, and the church architect Andrew Clague. Their assessment was that the tower was in a very precarious state and without serious restoration work taking place there was the distinct possibility that the tower would have to be closed. That would almost certainly mean the church would also have to close.

In addition to the work to restore the stonework of the tower, the clock needed a major service, the face of the clock required re-gilding, and the west window in the church tower also required major restoration work.

As a result of this tower inspection, Historic England placed St. Peter’s Church on their ‘At Risk’ register.
It was estimated that the total cost for the work involved would be between £200,000 and £300,000. A decision was taken by the church PCC to form a Committee to look at raising money by obtaining grants (Heritage Lottery Committee), and to form a Church Fundraising Committee to raise additional funds through Church events.


In 2013 The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) was approached and a representative from the HLF came to St. Peters to meet the Church HLF Committee, inspect the church tower, and offer good advice. The HLF representative felt that we met the criteria for a possible ‘Development Grant’ enabling the church to take up to twelve months to prepare a detailed plan for a full application to the HLF. We were advised, however, that there would still be the need to raise additional funds as the HLF grant would only cover about 60% of the total cost. In December 2013 an application for a ‘Development Grant’ was successful and we were awarded an initial £19,000 development grant.


Early in 2014, as a result of the development grant, the HLF Committee appointed Clague of Canterbury as our architect adviser for the project. In order to determine the full extent of the restoration required the architects arranged for a drone to photograph, in detail, each side of the church tower. The architects could then more clearly identify the amount of Kent Ragstone required on each of the tower walls, as well as the areas of flint that needed restoration.

Quotes were obtained from four stonemasonry companies, from Smith of Derby for the clock repairs/re-gilding, and from John Corley of Deal for the restoration of the West Window. A specialist firm BAQUS was employed as the CDM Co-ordinator for all the Health and Safety aspects of the project.

During 2014 the HLF Committee also had to show how they would deliver other elements of any project that is HLF funded. The final estimation was that the total cost of the project would be just under £250,000. The application for a HLF grant was delivered, by hand, to the HLF headquarters in London a few days before Christmas 2014.


February 2014: the letter arrived from the HLF to say that we had been awarded a HLF grant of £154,700. It was expected that we would also be able to reclaim about £36,000 VAT from HMRC. This would still leave a shortfall of about £60,000.

Before work could begin we had to demonstrate that all the funding was in place, that the ecclesiastical insurance for the work on the tower was agreed and that we had the written approval from the church authorities in both Canterbury and London. Eventually all the paperwork was in place and we were given permission to start work in May 2015. It had been estimated that the work would take six months. The first three to four weeks, however, would be spent erecting the scaffolding.


Once the contractors, Pierra Restorations Ltd, were on site they began cutting out the eroded Kent ragstone that would need to be replaced.







There is now only one quarry supplying Kent Ragstone meaning that the supplies from the quarry are very much dependent on where you are on the firm’s order list. Blocks ragstone prepared by the quarry were delivered either directly to the site or to the stonemasons’ base to be cut into the required size and shape before being delivered to St. Peter’s.







As soon as the new Kent Ragstone arrived on site it was winched up to the required lift (level) of the scaffolding and fixed into position thus replacing the ragstone that had been cut out.




The stonemason on site was responsible for carving the ragstone into the many required shapes. Some individual pieces took up to two days to complete, while the numerous pieces for the arch over a window could take over a week.






The replacement of old ragstone with new ragstone was the most time-consuming part of the project. The rest of the church tower also needed restoration work.

REPOINTING. All loose lime mortar had to be scraped out round the large areas of flint work of the tower. These areas were re-pointed with new lime mortar.






NEW LOU’VRE BOARDS, NETTING AND BIRD SPIKES. The old lou’vre boards high up in the tower were removed and replaced with new lou’vre boards. New netting was attached to these openings to the belfry to prevent might access by birds. Hundreds of bird spikes were also stuck on ledges of the church tower to discourage the birds.






CALNE STONE. A few pieces of Calne stone were needed to replace the old Calne stone that had been used on church restoration in the past.

WEST WINDOW. The west window of the church in the church tower was dismantled and taken to Deal for several months so that the window could be repaired and restored by the specialist firm of John Corley. The repair and restoration of the West window was financed by a very generous anonymous donation.






As soon as the scaffolding had been erected at the beginning of the project Smith of Derby, a famous clockmaker, came to St. Peters to take down the clock from the church tower to take it back to their workshops for a complete service and to re-gild the clock dial. While at the Derby workshops the church clock was on display, and we understand, became the centre-piece of the public tours that Smith of Derby undertake at their workshops.







It was not possible to return the clock until all the work on the tower was complete and some of the scaffolding had been dismantled. Smith of Derby returned and initially fixed a new wooded frame to the clock tower, before fixing the clock to the new frame.







Throughout the length of the project there were regular site visits to monitor progress, to solve problems that had occurred and to check that the standard of work was as required. James Kenton (Clague of Canterbury architect) was the main link with the contractors. David John (Historic England architect) visited St. Peters on three occasions to check on progress whilst the project was in progress. Members of the HLF Committee were also involved in the site visits.






A CHURCH TRAIL. A NADFAS (National Association of Decorative and Fine Arts Societies) church trail was produced over a number of months with the help of a NADFAS Church Trail representative. The question sheet is on two sides of A4 paper in a child friendly design but is also suitable for accompanying adults. The church trail encourages engagement with the architecture, history and furnishings of the church. An answer sheet is also available for visitors to the church.


Throughout the entire tower restoration project photographic evidence of the progress of the Church Tower project was displayed in the church for members of the congregation and visitors to the church. The aim was to show the progress being made by the contractors and to record what was going on up the tower.






Although the stonemason was working on site for several months most of the work he was carrying out was away from the public view. Two occasions were advertised for the stonemason to demonstrate his skills to the public.







A new church leaflet was made available for visitors to St. Peter’s Church. The cost of printing the leaflet was part of the HLF project.

Mark Castro and Max Philo of Modus Films were contracted to produce a short film to show the work being done on the church tower, and also recorded many of the activities that go on as part of the life of the church. Max and Mark visited the church on numerous occasions during the HLF tower project and the result is an excellent film highlighting to great effect the work of St. Peter’s Church.


Some of the Kent Ragstone cut out from the church tower has been stored in the churchyard and will be used in the new Garden of Remembrance in the churchyard once official approval has been obtained.





The three main grants obtained by the HLF Committee were from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the Friends of St. Andrews and St. Peter’s churches (£10,000) and the Friends of Kent Churches (£20,000)


The Fundraising Committee have organised many fundraising events during 2014.  Fundraising events have included individual ‘Save the Tower Loose Change Appeal’ collecting boxes, the major launch of the ‘Fundraising appeal’ at the Church and in the Church Hall, a number of concerts/musical events in the church, a beetle drive during half term, Ladies nights, a murder mystery play put on by local teachers, the Church Summer Fete and a photographic competition ‘This Made Me Smile’ with 13 photographs being selected for a 2015 calendar.

Individuals have supported the Fundraising appeal with generous individual donations, doing collections at a local supermarket and a garden centre, doing sponsored walks to name just some of the support that individual members of the community have given to the church and the fundraising appeal.

As a result of all the fundraising activities over £30,000 has been raised during 2014 by the Fundraising Committee.

The Friends of St. Peter’s and St. Andrew’s Churches have agreed a donation of £10,000 to St Peter’s Parish Church for the restoration of the Church Tower.
The Friends of Kent Churches have awarded the church a donation of £20,000 for the restoration of the Church Tower.

The local TDFAS (Thanet Decorative and Fine Arts Society) have given £100 for St Peter’s to develop a NADFAS Church Trail for children (and accompanying adults) Answers to the church trail and explanatory notes are also being prepared. This is in the final stages of development.





The Church Fundraising Committee arranged regular fundraising events bridging the gap between the total cost of the project and the funds raised by the grants above. There was also the need to find funds for other repairs to the church and the church halls. Just a few of the many fundraising events are shown below.



A requirement of the HLF grant was that we acknowledged the HLF support as often as possible.


It was planned for the work on the tower to be completed in approximately six months between June and November 2015. It soon became obvious that this target was not going to be achieved because of some additional problems that came to light as work progressed, and also because there were long delays between the ordering of the Kent ragstone and its delivery from the quarry. The church HLF committee contacted our HLF adviser, Simon Shaw, who readily agreed an extension to the contract. Rather than a short extension the HLF agreed a flexible extension allowing for any bad weather that might prevent work during the winter months. Eventually the work on the tower was completed in June 2016.




June 2016: just before the scaffolding was taken down the Historic England architect, David John, returned to St. Peter’s church for a final inspection of the church tower, with James Kenton, (Clague of Canterbury architect), and members of the HLF Committee. David John was extremely pleased with the work that had been done on the tower. He announced that the historic church of St. Peter’s in Thanet could be removed from the ‘Historic England Churches at Risk’ register. The church tower and the church of St. Peter’s were no longer in danger of being closed to the public for many years to come.