MEMBERS of a tiny church are seeking volunteers to help them preserve a national treasure.
Dedicated to the Lincolnshire saint, Gilbert of Sempringham, and the 12th century Bishop of Lincoln, St Hugh, the church at Gosberton Clough is the only complete church in England with the original furnishings designed and made by renowned church architect Sir Ninian Comper.
Scottish-born Comper worked on some of the greatest churches in the land, including Westminster Abbey and Holy Trinity, Coventry, during a lifetime stretching from 1864 to 1960.
Churchwarden and organist Mary Burton said St Gilbert and St Hugh’s still has furniture from Comper’s workshops and the building is a unique testament to his skill.
Though proud of the Comper connection and their beautiful church, officials and the tiny congregation – which numbers around six – have hit a major stumbling block.
They simply cannot afford to look after it.
Mrs Burton said: “We feel we have this enormous burden, really, because there are only a few people to keep it going but actually it’s a national treasure.”
The church is inviting people with an interest in architecture – or the history of church buildings – to become friends of the church and fundraise to maintain it.
Mrs Burton said volunteer friends need not be churchgoers – the important thing is simply a willingness to help preserve the building.
She said the church hasn’t drawn up a schedule of work – or had any estimates done – because members know they cannot afford to have anything done.
Mrs Burton explained: “Anything we do in there involves many thousands of pounds so we ignore it.”
The foundation stone for the church was laid on the Clough Road site in 1902 and much of the work was completed by the following year.
Mrs Burton said: “The church has a timber framed nave and exterior pebbledash facing.
“Inside there are tie beams below a canted ceiling. The beams were originally black and the walls white.
“The stained glass window in the east is by Sir Ninian Comper, and given in memory of the men who gave their lives in The Great War. It is dated 1920. It shows St Hugh with a swan and St Gilbert. In the bottom right-hand corner you can find Sir Ninian Comper’s trademark strawberry.
“The memorial tablet in the north wall of the chancel records the names of those who gave their lives in both the world wars.
“The four angels were made by Belgian woodcarvers. Originally they were on four posts, which held the candles and curtains around the altar.
“The five shields were made and painted by the Kemp family. The Rev William Kemp was vicar of St Gilbert and St Hugh’s from 1953 to 1964. He also painted the watercolour displayed at the rear of the church showing the original setting of the altar complete with the angels.”
* People interested in becoming a friend of St Gilbert and St Hugh’s can find out more by contacting the Rev Ian Walters on 01775 840694.