Urgent repairs for Surrey 16th century church to fix crumbling spire over safety risk

St Nicholas church
-Credit: (Image: Peter-Wood)

Urgent repairs are needed to protect the spire at St Nicholas’ church. Masonry has come loose at the Shepperton Church, where the tower could become a health and safety risk to both the congregation and the community.

The tower at St Nicholas was added in the 1700s, after Queen Anne was boating past the church and questioned why it didn’t have a tower. However, now the structure needs to built back brick by brick. Failure to do so and make the tower safe again threatens this Grade II* Listed building and could force it to close until repairs can be carried out.

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This is why the church is one of 18 to share in a £1 million urgent funding pay-out from the National Churches Trust. St Nicholas is set to receive a £37,260 grant that will help the church restore St Nicholas’ tower and the external masonry which will help to make the building safe to use again.

Construction work is set to commence as soon as possible, as the condition of the tower would have likely gotten worse over the winter months.

Rev Carole George, Rector of St Nicholas Church, said: “Our 16th Century church is not only a place of worship but an iconic building in the village of Shepperton, open to the community throughout the week. One day it can be a quiet haven for those looking to spend some time in prayer or reflection; the next day it can be a bustling learning space for the local school children or the Beaver’s group.

“We are delighted to have been selected for inclusion in the Last chance Churches appeal and are very grateful for the financial assistance given by the National Churches Trust, which helped enable us to start the work before the onset of the Winter frosts. The restoration work required is frost sensitive, so there was an urgency for the work to begin; without this assistance we would have had to wait until next spring, with the complication of further deterioration, increased restoration costs and a safety risk.

A nativity scene set up in the chruch for Christmas
As well as services the chruch is for community craft clubs, a bereavement café and Pilates and orchestra classes. -Credit:St Nicholas Church

Claire Walker, Chief Executive of the National Churches Trust, said: "I’m delighted that the National Churches Trust has been able to support St Nicholas to get funding for urgent tower and masonry restoration. This will safeguard unique local heritage and keep it open and in use for the benefit of local people.”

“Whether seeking quiet reflection, access to community services or a place to worship, the National Churches Trust helps hundreds of churches each year and with the support of local people, keeps them thriving today and tomorrow.”

The church building is not just used for worship but also hosts a wide range of other activities such as support groups, community craft clubs, a bereavement café and Pilates and orchestra classes.

With the tower visible from far across the Thames Valley the church is a significant part of the skyline. St Nicholas has been a fixture of the community since at least 1614, but there has been other churches on the same spot or close to it since the 7th century.

The grant has been made possible by a £500,000 donation from a private donor to the National Churches Trust, the UK’s leading independent charity helping churches, chapels and meeting houses remain open and in use.

Money will be split across 18 historic churches across the UK all of which were in desperate need of funding to keep their buildings open. In England, there are now 900 places of worship on Historic England's Heritage at Risk Register – with 53 more added in 2023.

Claire Walker said: “Churches are the beating hearts of communities. It is estimated they provide £55 billion a year in social good. If a church is not weather-proof and watertight, there is only so much they can do. Making vital repairs to these 18 iconic churches means that they will be able to stay open and in use for the benefit of local people. Food banks, warm spaces, community cafes and other vital services that are a lifeline for the community will now be kept open.

“All of these churches have communities that depend on them and were desperate to stay open. This campaign provides proof that the public think that the UK’s historic churches, the services they provide, and their heritage are worth investing in.”

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