“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.