The generous grant from the Trust was an essential contribution to our recently completed project installing kitchen and toilet facilities in our 12th-century church. We located the kitchen in the 13th century north transept, and we converted an adjacent Victorian boiler room into the toilet. The work involved creating a doorway between the north transept and the boiler room (through a pre-existing Victorian disturbance to the stonework), re-roofing and re-flooring the boiler room, and connecting mains water and sewage. The main contractor was J G Restorations. As is often the case in such projects, we hit some problems, which inevitably came with price-tags attached. A bat roost was discovered on the first day the builders were on site in the boiler room, and commissioning bat surveys and remedial action delayed us by several months. Then the roof timbers of the old boiler room turned out to be rotten and had to be replaced. But the end-product is excellent, as we hope our photos show. We are particularly pleased with the stonework around the door (done by an internationally recognised stonemason), the quality of the oak joinery and the restored window in the loo.
The work programme has to date comprised the work on the kitchen and toilet facilities and the restoration of the peal of five bells, which were unringable as a result of a poor-quality rehanging in 1900, which threatened the stability of the bell tower. (We now have a peal of eight bells, hung in a new bell frame, safely located much lower down the tower, and an increasingly skilled team of ringers. Visiting ringers have travelled from as far afield as Wells, Ipswich and Newcastle.)
Further work, now in planning, includes: installation of under-pew heaters and supplementary heating; restoration of the church clock, equipping it with autowinders; repairing damage to stonework; replacing the church gates; and improvements to the churchyard.
In the 12th Century, Broadwell was a significant parish with a population of around 2,000. St Peter and St Paul’s (Grade I listed) was the main minster church in the area, built in the 12th century, with chapels of ease in outlying Kelmscott and Holwell. It served as a served as a centre for the Knights Templar, who financed the building of the church (and its later enlargement in the 13th century). Since then, the size of the parish has shrunk, and the population of the parish has contracted dramatically, with well under 100 residents living full-time in the village itself. So we have a magnificent Grade 1 listed church serving an ever-dwindling number of regular church-goers – an extreme version of the challenge facing many rural parishes across the country.
Further information about the church is on our village website.