New roof for Deeping St James church will stop leaks

Scaffolding surrounds Priory Church as work goes on to replace a major part of the roof. SG210116-104TW
Scaffolding surrounds Priory Church as work goes on to replace a major part of the roof. SG210116-104TW

Priory Church at Deeping St James is shrouded in scaffolding as work gets underway to re-roof around half of the main body of the church.

Lead on the roof that’s been there for around 150 years has become thin and worn, springing the occasional leak.

A workman on scaffolding beside the church clock. SG210116-103TW

A workman on scaffolding beside the church clock. SG210116-103TW

Scaffolding went up at the church on January 4 for the £125,000 project and work is expected to last until the end of April.

Martin Fisher, one of the churchwardens, said the church had received a grant from the Chancellor’s church roof scheme and had put some of its own funds towards the project, but fundraising continues with another £15,000 still to be found.

The timing of the work was dictated by the roosting habits of bats as it’s important the protected creatures are undisturbed.

Mr Fisher said: “One of the things you have to do when you do a project like this is to call in the bat people, who do a survey and give you advice.

Between now and then, it’s a question of all hands to the pumps to put the funding together.

Churchwarden Martin Fisher

“You get a ‘window’ in the autumn and in the spring and we have a window now.”

The need to replace the lead was discovered in 2010 during a five-yearly inspection.

Mr Fisher said: “The rest of the roof is all right. It’s either slate or stainless steel, which are more durable, although this has been durable lasting 150 years.

“Churches do have this incredible long life. The building was first consecrated in 1139, just under 900 years ago.”

He said there will be a celebration – perhaps a celebratory service – when the work has been completed.

“Between now and then, it’s a question of all hands to the pumps to put the funding together,” he said.

He said the overall cost of the project made it “a big job for a relatively small parish” to find.

There will be community fundraising events to help find the remainder of the cash but anyone who cares to donate can write to the Rev Susan Paterson at 50 Spalding Road, Deeping St James PE6 8UJ with cheques payable to Deeping St James PCC (parochial church council).

Rich in history

Priory Church is rich in history with links to a Tudor matriarch, Lady Margaret Beaufort, mother of Henry V11, who granted the monastic brothers the right to have their own mill, a valuable source of income during the Middle Ages.

It was once home to a church school, now the church hall.

There’s an 18th century curiosity that might bemuse onlookers until they discover that it’s not a confessional or sentry box but a shelter used to protect the vicar from rain during burial services.

The church was consecrated by Alexander, Bishop of Lincoln, on St James’ day in 1139.#

Later charters confirm its status as a daughter cell of Thorney Abbey.

In common with most churches, it has had additions and alterations over the years. In 1717 the church tower collapsed because it was rotten to its foundations after centuries of flooding. The tower was rebuilt in the 1730s and it’s the one we know today.