Lincolnshire’s smallest octagonal church, St James at Moulton Chapel, had a service of celebration on Sunday to mark its reopening after months of restoration work.
The Bishop of Grantham, the Right Reverend Nicholas Chamberlain, conducted the united service of the Elloe Stone Parishes to bless the building work that has helped return St James Church to its former glory.
During the service, Mr Chamberlain said: “We give thanks for all the restoration work that has been done on this building.
“St James has been part of this community for years, but I know that it’s not the only place of worship in this community.
“There’s more work to be done, which is in hand, as we look to the future and I’m confident that St James will continue to be part of this community for centuries to come, as it has been for centuries past.”
Around 75 people attended, including churchgoers from St James, Moulton Chapel Methodist Church, Moulton, Whaplode and Holbeach St John’s.
Fittingly, the service was held in the same week as the Feast of St James the Apostle.
Among guests were district council chairman Rodney Grocock and Coun Anthony Casson, who together with council colleague Andrew Woolf, contributed more than £2,000 from their ward budgets towards a handcrafted oak door for the church entrance.
Coun Grocock said: “I can speak for all three district councillors in respect of this church and the work which is absolutely first class.
“It’s a credit to Moulton Chapel to get it back in such a fantastic state for people to come and pray.”
Parochial church council secretary Angela Fisher said: “The door is lovely.”
Building works began in September last year, when it was thought the church would re-open at the end of February.
Specialist firm The CEL Group uncovered many more rotten timbers and crumbling bricks than first thought following removal of slate tiles.
Work dragged on but the church has recently been able to host its first wedding in months as well as a fundraising concert, which saw the Queen sending her best wishes to the congregation with her representative, Toby Dennis, the Lord Lieutenant of Lincolnshire attending.
Pinchbeck singer Pavanotti (Jeff Woods) appeared on the night, describing it as “my privilege to entertain there” because “St James is a beautiful historic church.
Although a great deal of restoration has been completed and the church has opened, there is more work to be done.
Angela said: “The roof has been repaired and replaced with a new timber cupola, closely monitoring the original which was removed in the late 19th Century.
“The external walls have been re-pointed and some of the uniquely shaped bricks replaced.
Internally the walls have been repaired and decorated with the original stencil scheme to the Chancel conserved.
“A new heating system and underground drainage works are to be completed in the very near future.”
There is more fundraising to do but church members are grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund for providing a massive £199,000 towards the original estimate of the restoration, some £250,000.
Money also came from the Cambridge Community Fund, All Churches Trust and the Blakemore Foundation.
• St James Church in Roman Road is nationally important as a grade II* listed building.
Soul Architects were appointed to undertake these Heritage Lottery Fund grant aided repairs and described the building as “a delightful, octagonal gem of a church with Dutch influences”.
The present building was put up in 1722 as a daughter church to All Saints’ Moulton, although there is evidence of earlier worship on the site dating back to 1259.
The architects say the church was in poor repair by 1886 and a local appeal raised money for its repair and refurbishment.
During the restoration, the chancel was added to the east and the bell tower was removed.
Inside new pews and paved floors were provided.
More work was carried out in 1923 when vestries were added to the north and south sides of the chancel.
A colourful episode in its history relates to the last ever full-time incumbent, Father Reginald Thompson, who was there until 1975.
He was reportedly known for keeping a horse in a room at the vicarage.