Updates

 April 30 2018

The latest works to the chancel project have all been outside in sunshine and in rain.

The chancel was the last part of the church without a drain found the outside walls. The rest of the church was completed in the 1970s leaving only the chancel to be finished. And now it is!

Also, trenches for all the drains, a new soakaway and pipes for water and future gas supplies have been laid from the lich gate to the south transept vestry. These pipes will now run into the chancel to provide water to the toilet and kitchenette.

Inside the chancel, the floor has been lowered and is now ready for the new surface. However the most exciting moment of recent weeks was outside.   Follow this link for further information:  grave marker PCC 2

Update for April 2018
Click here for the Latest Progress report 1 13Apr

Update from March 2018
It’s been a wet and muddy Week 2 but good progress has been made and the programme of work is still on track.

The key jobs this week were to dig out the trenches for the soakaway drainage and for the rainwater drainage around the base of the chancel. So the machines have been busy scooping up the earth and depositing it neatly by the side ready to be replaced when the drainage is done.

At the same time, all the earth and spoil has to be checked for any archaeological materials or anything from old graves in the churchyard and, pleasingly, there has been nothing other than an old tile…… However the archaeological programme has been making serious progress in the chancel itself, helped by villagers who have been assisting Mark from Albion Archaeology who can be seen in the photo with George Baxter lowering the floor of the chancel by some 40 cm. George and Mike Grimes have been barrowing earth and dirt out of the chancel all week, using pickaxes to loosen the surface and checking for any interesting items, of which there have been precisely none!
So, this weekend, the floor of the chancel is much lower and ready for the team checking old inscriptions to record what has been found on the stones. Essi Baxter and Monica Hetherington are ready for the second stage of the Headstone project work! Both Archaeology and Headstones are part of the village public Heritage Lottery Fund activities.
There’s the latest photos and information on boards in the church porch so do go and look when you are passing. You will also see the stars of the Bedford and Milton Keynes Citizen newspapers, Daphne Waugh and Colin Deas pictured in the local paper clutching their brick taken from the wall which came down last week. And you’ll find that on the Bletsoe Noticeboard Facebook Group too!

 

 

Click on this link to get the latest update:  WEBSITE-CHANCEL-RESTORATION-WEEK-ONE

 

“Bringing the Chancel Back to Life!”

It’s over forty years since the chancel of St Mary’s was bricked up and left as a ruin. Ten years before, water damage had begun to rot the insides till it became unusable so an unusual solution was chosen and a wall built separating the two parts of the church. And so it has stayed to this day.

But the villagers of Bletsoe haven’t taken no for an answer or stood idly by. Since the 1980s, a group dedicated to preserving and restoring the church building has led the fundraising efforts working with the church congregation to bring St Mary’s back to best condition and after twenty-five years of improvement to the ‘open’ part of the building, attention turned to the chancel, the ruined vestry and the east window.

Specialists were brought in, church architects drew up plans, and provisional plans to bring the chancel back into use were priced. Once everyone had got over the shock of seeing a bill of around £250,000 to restore the building, provide a kitchen and a toilet (key requirements for regular and occasional users of the building) and make the space both available for the church congregation but also for use by the wider community of Bletsoe and beyond.

Today, in 2018, work begins. It has been a four year journey to find grants from many places and wonderfully supported by local friends & residents to raise enough to guarantee the first stage of restoration starting in March 2018.  The project has received grants from 20 organisations (after 65 applications!) and over 65 people have pledged and donated money to make this happen for which the project is very grateful

Keep checking back here to see progress. You can see photos of St Mary’s as it is before work began and you’ll be able to see how the transformation develops. We will tell you more and more of the story as time goes on too.

And we will keep you up to date with the various community projects being set up in association with the Heritage Lottery Fund which has supported the whole restoration project along with many other funders. There’s projects to recover the churchyard headstones, trace the archaeology of the chancel, record the restoration through the Media students at Sharnbrook Academy, follow the work through photos and tours of the building and see the development of a Village Archive.