VIDEO: Itchingfield parish restoring ‘lovely church’

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The rector of Itchingfield was ‘disappointed’ to be told while on holiday that the on-going roof repairs to his church had gone £20,000 over budget.

The Reverend John Gay, of St Nicolas Church, said a number of listed buildings in Horsham using Horsham stone could face similar problems in the future.

JPCT 090913 Repairs to roof of St Nicolas Church, Itchingfield have gone �20,000 overbudget. Photo by Derek Martin

JPCT 090913 Repairs to roof of St Nicolas Church, Itchingfield have gone �20,000 overbudget. Photo by Derek Martin

John, who is rector of the Grade II* listed 12th century church, said in view of the age of the roof: ‘I was a bit disappointed more than shocked’.

A budget of £225,000 had been allocated for repairs, but an additional £20,000 had to be found by the church’s fabric committee because the ancient Horsham stone roof had been cemented using the wrong kind of mortar decades ago.

All the roof’s stones had to be removed in order to inspect the underlying timbers when it was found that cement instead of lime mortar had been used.

If lime mortar had been used the stones could have been lifted without breaking them.

John, who only recently took up his appointment, added: “Obviously finding £20,000 in a matter of days is difficult enough for a business let alone a non-profit organisation.”

The Diocese of Chichester offered the church a loan to cover the cost but its congregation - which had raised ‘tens of thousands’ - had found other means of affording it, said Maurice Nicholls, the committee’s chairman.

Savings will be made by foregoing planned repairs to the church tower’s wooden shingles and repairs to the ground drainage system, and by using a £10,000 contingency built into the contract price as well.

A £225,000 budget was allocated after the committee identified the need for repairs in 2009.

The congregation held various fundraising drives, including concerts, garden fetes and bridge drives to help finance the works which have been ongoing since June.

Maurice said: “The foremost problem was to find a source of Horsham stone and then to find the funds to purchase it.

“We had four days in which to deal with the problem.”

The committee decided to buy the stone at the contractor’s meeting on August 15.

Wendy Dorkings, the church warden, who was also present at the meeting, added: “We had to make a fast purchase of the Horsham stone because it was destined for another place if we didn’t.”

The works are expected to finish in October.

The ceiling was found to be in need of work as well. Protective covering was put on all the pews inside the building and services have been held in Itchingfield’s village hall in the meantime.

John said: “We had been hoping to continue our services throughout this time of repair but everything is covered.

“We are really sad that we cannot come to our lovely church to sing, worship and to pray together with our friends.”

Maurice added: “The congregation, which raised several tens of thousands of pounds from its own budget and fundraising within the parish, is also most grateful to English Heritage and various other charitable trusts for the generous contribution they have made towards the cost of the repairs.”

An English Heritage spokesman said: ”English Heritage is grateful to the parish of Itchingfield for looking after its church with such dedication.”

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