New exhibition helps raise the roof

Nunney Church brochure
The Friends of Nunney Church have produced a brochure in support of the Raise the Roof appeal.

A new exhibition and brochure provide visitors and villagers with a history of the Grade I listed All Saints Church Nunney and its ongoing roof problems.

Nunney Church brochure
The Friends of Nunney Church have produced a brochure in support of the Raise the Roof appeal.

The new brochure, produced by Visit Nunney for the Friends of Nunney Church, is currently being printed.

The full story of the saga of the Nunney Church roof is set out in a brand new display, also produced for the Friends of Nunney Church by Visit Nunney. It was made possible by a generous donation from Nunney resident David Scrutton.

The exhibition consists of a timeline that marks key points in the monument’s history, from the first known parson (Thomas de Tornai in 1178) to the very latest on the fundraising efforts for a new roof.

It went on display on Nunney Fayre day, Saturday 1 August, and can be visited free of charge daily except during services.

Nunney Church Raise the Roof

All Saints` Church dates back to the 12th Century and was remodelled in the 13th and 19th Centuries.

Built in the decorated style of local stone, it houses important effigies of the owners of the adjacent, moated, Nunney Castle (maintained by English Heritage) to which the church is closely linked.

One of these effigies is of Sir John Delamere who built the castle. Viewing the church in the 1950s Pevsner admired the 15th Century wagon roof. Seven years later it was gone.

There is a recently conserved 14th Century wall painting of St George, and commemorating Nunney’s association with the Loyalists, a Civil War cannon ball. Further features are a Norman Font and a Jacobean Screen.

Nunney Scarecrows exhibition
Nunney Scarecrows exhibition (2014)

The church is much visited. Approximately 20,000 tourists come to view the village and its castle each year.

The church is also home to rotating local history exhibitions, researched and produced by Visit Nunney, providing context to both the village and its people, the castle and of course, the church building itself.

The visitors book bears testimony to the desire of many that something be done about the roof, one repeated assessment being: “Lovely church, shame about the roof!”

Nunney Church 1957
Rev. Percy Clough during the 1957 installation of temporary ceiling tiles in Nunney Church

The Nave roof has been subject to much alteration over the centuries. In the 1950s it was discovered that the 15th Century wagon roof had rotted away.

Agricultural steel trusses were put in place under a temporary bituminous felt roof (replaced in 1973 with concrete slates).

In this process the two dormer windows (N) and 2 clerestory windows (S) were deleted, thus robbing the church interior of natural light.

In 1967, the unsightly steel frame was hidden behind a suspended fibre-board ceiling. Since then, the void became a haven for a maternity colony of the protected Lesser Horseshoe bat and more recently, the ceiling tiles began to fall out of their frames.

The removal of these tiles has revealed window frames in situ, anticipating later work to restore light.

The inability of past parishioners to tackle the requirement for complete refurbishment to original standards (due to lack of resources in those days) has left the present, much smaller congregation with an unenviable challenge.

The Friends of Nunney Church was formed in 2007 as a subcommittee of the PCC. Its aim was to restore the roof to a standard befitting a Grade 1 listed church.

The Recession blunted the Friends campaign to the extent that a project to install modern oak frames and replace the tiles with natural stone ones has become unaffordable.

Nunney Church Roof Appeal
An elevation of the planned work provided by the architect
(Click to enlarge)

That which is now planned has pared back the original project as follows:

  1. Removal of ceiling tiles (now completed following the building of a new roost space for the bats all under Licence from Natural England).
  2. Install 4 dormer windows with lead roofs and cloakings each with twin oak framed windows with leaded lights (non opening).
  3. Modify (by cutting away sections) and reinforce the steel trusses to accommodate a replacement wagon ceiling fashioned from curved plasterboard to be hung from new purlins and the existing rafters. Install new oak ridge and new oak cornice to both sides of nave.
  4. Make good plaster surfaces and redecorate where required.
  5. Carry out necessary rewiring caused by modification of trusses. The longer term plan is to develop the church for wider use, installing toilets, improved heating and a dedicated exhibition space as well as an improved committee room. In addition to religious services, the church is currently employed for Summer weekend teas, concerts and occasional dramatic performances. It is already the venue for local history exhibitions, interpreting the Church, village and adjacent Nunney Castle which does not have such facilities.
Nunney Church Roof
The interior of Nunney Church in 1907

The outcome of the proposed work will be to restore light to a gloomy interior, and the ceiling to a form and appearance approximating to the original, without disturbing the integrity of the steel framework and the concrete tiles, which are in good condition.

Nunney Church Roof
The nave of Nunney Church before and after the “temporary” ceiling tiles were removed.

Under the revised plan the overall cost has effectively been halved. The work is becoming urgent because the Friends committee’s average age is around 75 and failure to complete our predecessors project soon may lead to it never being completed.

Thus far, the Raise the Roof Appeal has attracted funding and pledges totaling £195,000, of this, approximately £60,000 has been spent on structural surveys, planning and re-housing the bats in a specially built new roost.

This leaves £135,000 to spend towards the simplified plan, which will cost approximately £267,000. New donations and/or pledges are urgently sought. For details of how to donate, please contact Ken Lloyd.

The intention, subject to the success of the current funding appeal, is to start work in January 2016, with a view to completion by August 2016.

Contact details
Ken Lloyd
Friends of Nunney Church
Telephone 01373 836 079
Email [email protected]