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St Johns Blog


Two hundred and seventy people enjoyed a weekend of events at Bressingham Church to celebrate the completion of a £250,000 Heritage Lottery Fund building repair project to make this architecturally important landmark building watertight and preserve it for future generations to enjoy. Matthew Champion kicked off proceedings on Friday evening with an extremely well-received, lively and ‘illuminating’ talk on the hidden history in Bressingham Church. Matthew’s talk included showing people changes in the layout and appearance of the church over the centuries, and more detailed information about hidden graffiti and the building’s most important feature: the magnificent carved pre-Reformation bench ends. The evening had promised to make people look at churches in a ’new light’ and it really didn’t disappoint. (Matthew is an archaeologist and historian who has specialised in medieval graffiti – ancient graffiti in churches is only revealed by fluorescent light, hence the puns!).

The church looked splendid and colourful all weekend thanks to a Floral Festival by nine local groups who thoughtfully created beautiful and fragrant ‘country garden’ floral displays in the church. The flowers really made the church come alive, and the work by the local community really showed how much local goodwill and support there is for this ancient building. Blessed by warm, sunny weather, the weekend culminated in a service of thanksgiving for the restoration of the church roof, led by the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev’d Graham James. Bishop Graham gave thanks for the restoration work and he emphasised the importance of Norfolk’s churches as local landmarks, community hubs, and a vital spiritual resource. Bishop Graham said Norfolk would be “flattened” without our magnificent churches. The service was attended by the local community and many of the craftsmen and consultants who helped make the entire project such a success, and attendees enjoyed wine and nibbles following the service. St John the Baptist PCC would like to thank everyone who contributed to the project.

HLF development and delivery phases include:
2016: Development Phase funded by HLF – Investigate ‘opening up’ works with wildlife reports, archaeology report, historian’s report, building assessments, access reports.
2017-2018: Delivery phase funded by HLF – new downpipes and gutters; nave and south aisle roofs releaded; new bellicote; new soakaways (with archaeologist supervision); repairs to the tower roof; flint work repair; improvements to the south porch; new lighting and improved heating.Heritage Activities in 2017:
Historical landscape walk by Professor Tom Williamson launched Bressingham and
Fersfield History Group
History Group training sessions at Norfolk Archives and the Norfolk Historic
Environment Record offices at Gressenhall
Graffiti Project by Matthew Champion (graffiti survey and graffiti workshops with
Bressingham Primary School, and talk at HLF celebratory weekend)
Bench Ends project (Richard Hayman survey and report on the bench ends; booklet on the bench ends produced by Bressingham and Fersfield History Group)
Medieval Weekend and Church Ale (with historical reenactment professionals, De Mowbrays.

Image of St John the Baptist pew end


Repair work has mostly taken place on budget and to schedule. 

Some additional costs have been incurred: the bellcote was found to be in dangerous condition (ie, liable to fall!) and hence it required considerable repair and new stonework.

Stone block ready to be carved in workshop
Block being carved by hand in workshop
Image of scaffolding on rear of St John's

The old lead has been recast and augmented and is currently being laid.  Unfortunately, the highly skilled lead layer assigned to the work suffered a motorbike accident the week prior which slightly delayed works. We are glad to report he is recovering from his accident!


Matchboxes found in church roof on soffit
Keith and fellow builders from G F Atthowe returned to Bressingham Church after a one month hiatus as work on the roof had to wait until the bat breeding season was over. All the nave scaffolding is now in place and work on relaying lead roofs is underway.The builders first had to remove all the old lead which was sent away for recasting. There are records of previous lead repairs, so the builders were asked to look out for date marks from previous lead work. Although date plaques were not found, stonemason Steve found two small matchboxes resting on a soffit on the southwest corner of the nave roof close to the tower. Inside one of the delicate matchboxes the date “1910” and the name “N (?) Knott” can just be discerned. We know from Churchwarden Accounts that the lead roof was last replaced in 1910 by local builders Hoggs. It would be interesting to find out whether Hoggs (now R&J Hoggs) have any records about an employee named Knott. The matchboxes provide a poignant sense of the individual workmen who worked on the church just a few years before the outbreak of WWI – and they also connect two sets of skilled craftsmen more than a century apart.

FLINT REPAIR OPEN DAYS at Bressingham Church 19-20 July 2017

Tim and Lee were excellent instructors showing how best to repair flint walls. Tim recommended a mix of three parts sharp sand to one part hydrated lime, with enough water added to make a pliable but not too wet mix. Tim guided attendees how best to apply the mix with a trowel. Tim waits for the lime to set sufficiently, then pushes the lime deep into the wall. Once set, the lime is brushed off and wiped. The repaired wall will then be left slowly to dry……Hessian covering helps prevent the lime setting too quickly in sunny ocations. Volunteers discovered it is not as easy as Tim makes it appear – but of course he has decades of experience! Thanks to Tim, Lee, Howard and Paul for their cooperation.

Church Restoration Blog – 13 June 2017

Heritage Lottery Fund building works at Bressingham Church are going well and on schedule.  All the groundworks and archaeological work in preparation for new gutters and downpipes are now complete, and smart new gullies installed.   Unfortunately, 17-19th century graves were discovered beneath a church path in the new soakaway location.  Our archaeologists sensitively uncovered and recorded their findings and a reburial service (led by the Reverend Canon Tony Billett) took place on 1 June close to where the human remains were found. 

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) also funds some improvements to the church to ensure that the building is sustainable long term.  Currently, the electricians are installing new under pew heating.  Bressingham Church will have some heating……Hurrah!   New lighting fixtures will also be installed.

Our builder (Atthowe’s) is about to begin work on repairing the tower roof, replacing the wooden louvres in the tower (which are currently almost falling out!) and installing new cast iron gutters.  We are planning an Open Day at a time when repairs to the base of the tower wall are taking place so that visitors can learn traditional flint wall repair techniques using lime mortar.  We believe the craftsmen will be working in July – we will put up a notice on the website when we have a firm date.Several heritage activities have also taken place which have been recorded elsewhere on the website: a Landscape History walk in April, a visit to Norfolk Archives in May, and Medieval Graffiti workshops with Bressingham Primary School Children were also held in May.  We also commissioned two reports: a bench ends specialist wrote a report on the magnificent bench ends, and Matthew Champion produced a graffiti report and worksheets for visitors (we will be posting these reports on the website).

Church Restoration Blog – Monday, 15 May 2017

Groundworks continue at the church. Archaeologists Sarah and Simon are still carefully removing bones from the soakaway trench. Sadly, some of the remains they found last week were young children.  (A reburial service will take place in the next few weeks). Some interesting archaeology has been discovered in the church: Sarah and Simon noted layered foundations in the holes next to the 13th century chancel north wall (close to the north aisle) that had to be dug ready for the new downpipes. 
These black stripes indicate they date from the 12th century.
Hole dug ready for downpipe
Closeup of hole dug ready for downpipe


St John the Baptist, view from rear

We are pleased to report that most of the repairs to the church have been completed. Many thanks to the architects at Nicholas Warns Ltd and the builders at G.F. Atthowe for all their hard work.

The building has reopened to the public during daylight hours, so we hope you will visit the now watertight church!

Once the church has been given a full clean, a history display will be set up for visitors to enjoy.

We would also like to thank everyone for their patience during this time.