CAPTION: St Sylvester’s Church has had a toilet and running water installed so it can be used for events and school groups

£384,000 National Lottery Heritage Fund Grant Pays for Restoration of Medieval Devon Church for the Community

Posted: 12th July, 2021

A year after receiving a £384,300  from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, St Sylvester’s Church, Chivelstone, is now watertight with facilities and furnishings enabling it to be used by the whole community.

The funding has allowed for new bathroom and shower to be fitted as well as a new stairway to the bell ringing chamber.

Church warden, Vicky Tucker is looking forward to the renovations “making it a far nicer area for the services and community events.”

She said, “We’re hoping to have champing [camping in church] in the future because we’ve made a space at the back of the church for community use, and we are hoping that champing will take place in there.”

The work should be finished in November of this year. In the meantime, the church hosted a ‘Hard Hat Day’ where people from the community were invited to see the progress of the renovations with a tour from the architect and building manager.

There is still hope for getting a little more money to add in a kitchen. St Sylvester’s have been fundraising with community events such as bat walks and bird walks, an open day, and an orchestral concert.

“We are trying to do some fundraising to push things forward at a really difficult fundraising moment,” said Vicky.

An inspection of the 15th Century church in 2016 revealed deterioration of the church building and its medieval furniture.

The church is in the picturesque South Hams area of Devon, near Salcombe.

The church restoration working group; Vicky Tucker, Greg Wetherdon and Mark and Kate Jennings, realised the cost of repairs would be considerable.

The architect who had carried out the inspection advised them to apply to the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF).

The fund is the largest dedicated funder of heritage in the UK and its grants have helped churches across Devon.  One of its key objectives is to preserve ‘heritage and built community’.  This is seen as important to protect and nurture the history around us for future generations.

Local children were invited to visit the church as part of the lottery application

Greg said “Applying for a grant is a team effort and the NLHF look for a well-balanced team.  The PCC set up a Steering Group, with strengths and talents and a broad mix of skills and experiences.

“Getting a grant like this needs a team that sticks together – it is a long process and in small parishes large funders can worry about project and team sustainability and continuity.

“Being able to demonstrate the parish governance is in place, or undertaking a review of governance, will enable the NLHF to understand that there is the capacity within the parish to deliver projects.

“As well as a team of people, Mark set out the local partners identified by the Steering Group to work alongside, such as Devon Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) and the East Prawle History Society.

“They have with their own knowledge and expertise, which gave the NLHF confidence that the project had local community backing.

The church working group wrote a weekly blog about the restoration to keep people up-to-date

Greg also explained that the NLHF website sets out what organisations need to do to apply, and it is important this is always followed.  The process starts with making the initial statement, then a project application.

The initial statement includes a bid for development money; an initial sum to help with the delivery phase to look in detail at the activity plans and actual costings.

This enables a bid to be submitted for the project funding.  The team agreed the project had to have a strategy – how the overall vision was going to be delivered and how it broke down into different phases. This split the cost into bite-size manageable pieces.

Activity plans are a vital part of the process, challenging you to think how else a church can be used.  The NLHF will want you to be clear on the resources needed to deliver the activities identified and the outcomes.

Mark described the survey they undertook, at the suggestion of the NLHF, asking members of the local community for their thoughts and suggestions on uses and activities.

Vicky said that the project also needed smaller supplemental grants and applying was easier once funders were aware of the NLHF success.  Alongside these, funding also came from local donations.

Kate said one of the most positive outcomes was getting people into the church to explore its heritage.  Families from the village, local school children and scout and guide groups all visited the church for the first time.

The grant funding was awarded in June 2020. The work it enabled included installing a toilet in the church under the tower, making the building watertight and preserving the fabric and furniture for the future.

It means the church can now hold community events inside the building and make sure it is a place for everyone to use and enjoy.