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Repair work starts on historic Paston church

PUBLISHED: 17:09 06 August 2013 | UPDATED: 12:59 07 August 2013

Builder Peter Cooper working on the buttresses at Paston church.
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Builder Peter Cooper working on the buttresses at Paston church. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2013

Vital repairs to help a historic north Norfolk church “dry out” are under way.

Scaffolding at Paston Church. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLYScaffolding at Paston Church. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Paston church’s inside walls feature rare 14th century wall paintings in a parish also famous for the local namesake family whose diaries shed light on everyday medieval life.

The paintings had suffered because the walls were “soaking wet”, said churchwarden Nick Bardswell.
So after two years of planning and grant seeking, work has begun on a £180,000 scheme to tackle roofs, gutters, and drains to keep rainwater out of the walls.

But first two stone buttresses on the south side of the church, which were “about to collapse” are being knocked down and rebuilt.

And the scheme is also having to tackle two hurdles thrown up by the nature on its doorstep.

Inside Paston Church as restoration work begins..
PHOTO: ANTONY KELLYInside Paston Church as restoration work begins.. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Contractors W S Lusher are scheduling their work around the needs of rare bats colonising the neighbouring Paston Great Barn which also use the church and churchyard.

And an outbreak of invasive Japanese knotweed from a neighbouring spinney was also a “threat” said Mr Bardswell.

“It is advancing on the chancel and will interfere with the new drainage so we need to put in a plastic barrier.

“It is already going into one of the Paston family graves. The farmer is continuing to spray it and we are awaiting reports from experts, but it is a big outbreak and is a powerful plant that can push through roads and runways.

“You could think it has gone but it lies dormant and it will spring up again,” he added. The church did not have the funds for full eradication so would have to settle for managing the weed.

The building work, mostly funded by English Heritage grants, includes repairing the slate chancel roof and putting guttering around the thatched nave roof.

It is due to last until mid November and make the church “dry and safe”.

It was then hoped to restore the wall paintings, repair crumbling Paston family memorials, and look at adding plumbing and toilets.

The aim was for the church to host visitors to see the local history, as well as worship and enjoy lectures, meetings and concerts.

Mr Bardswell, who is also the church organist and treasurer, said the parish only had about 200 people and a regular congregation of about a dozen.

But the church was “worth saving” because of its history.

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