All Saints Church has closed to install a new nave ceiling, following a packed Evensong / Nunney Remembers service on Sunday 4 September.
Work will begin on 5 September using a local contractor, C & L Pearce. The church will remain closed until March 2017, a very rare event in its history.
The church dates back to the 12th century, although it was extended and much altered throughout the centuries. For centuries the people of Nunney have been baptised, married and buried at Nunney Church.
The Grade I church is likely to have been closed when the tower was added to the front of the church in 1475.
Problems with the roof were reported as far back as the 1860s. In 1894 the architect Edmund Buckle wrote to warn the Rector that the roof was in a perilous state with only 1 in 4 of the rafters on the south side bearing on the wall plate – the rest having rotted away.
Although he said that it was be patched up to survive for a few more years, he recommended that it should be completely taken down and replaced with a new roof.
The Rector then wrote a letter to all parishioners urging them to help raise the £850 needed to replace the roof and the west window, which was also in a poor state.
In the event they couldn’t raise enough for both jobs, so they replaced the west window and patched the roof.
During World War II the rain came straight onto the pews, leading to the closure of most of the church and services to be held in the neighbouring Church Rooms.
Repairs done “on the cheap” with green oak led to the introduction of both dry and wet rot and other problems with the original 15th century oak nave ceiling. It was eventually removed in 1957 and replaced with an agricultural steel structure with plastic ceiling tiles.
Even during this work, the church remained open. The nave was closed off with screens between the south arcade and the nave. Services were held in the south aisle.
The temporary ceiling was in place until last year. It blocked natural light from four dormer windows that had previously flooded the church. Instead, All Saints Church remained a gloomy monument for decades.
After nine years of dedicated fundraising by the Friends of Nunney Church, enough money has been raised to start work – although more than £40,000 is still required to complete the job.
Generous donations have been received from large organisations as well as private individuals, including Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group and racing legend Sir Stirling Moss (who raced for Nunney’s late Lord of the Manor Rob Walker).
You can find out more about the Raise the Roof Appeal – and make a donation – at nunneyraisetheroof.org.uk.
Ken Lloyd, chairman of the Friends of Nunney Church, said: “Our church has been around for a long time. It was already 100 years old when the castle was built and has seen many changes.”
“This year will mark a significant event in its history, when we will close the church to allow the roof to be restored to its former glory.”
“Many failed attempts have been made over the years to find the money to restore the roof. I am pleased that this generation has finally grasped the nettle and found the will and determination to complete this task.”
The final closing service and ceremony in the church on 4 September also included a Nunney Remembers reflection on four Nunney men who died in World War I 100 years ago.
At the end of the service the congregation left the darkened church holding lit candles. The church will reopen before Easter 2017.
The Friends of Nunney Church are organising a silent auction of good quality items in aid of the Raise the Roof Appeal.
The Friends would be most grateful for donations of items suitable for sale. Anyone wishing to donate a gift is asked to contact Mrs Mary Lynch-Staunton, Highfield, Frome Road, Nunney, telephone 01373 836 263, who may be able to arrange storage.