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Suffolk church's stained glass to return to former glory with £800,000 restoration

PUBLISHED: 16:30 05 December 2019 | UPDATED: 16:07 06 December 2019

Stained glass at Long Melford church is to be restored thanks to an £800,000 project  Picture: SIMON EDGE

Stained glass at Long Melford church is to be restored thanks to an £800,000 project Picture: SIMON EDGE

SIMON EDGE

After surviving waves of vandalism and the Civil War, a Suffolk church's unique stained glass is set to return to its former glory thanks to a £800,000 project.

The artwork has been named as some of the rarest in the country  Picture: CATHEDRAL STUDIOSThe artwork has been named as some of the rarest in the country Picture: CATHEDRAL STUDIOS

Centuries worth of grime have been cleared off the stunning stained glass at Long Melford Church - which villagers affectionately refer to as "the cathedral".

While as much as 90% of stained glass in the country's churches was destroyed in the Reformation and during the Civil War, the extraordinary riches in the south Suffolk church remained.

Now, thanks to a generous donation from an American descendent of local wool tycoon John Clopton - who is pictured in one of the panes - and Cathedral Studios in Canterbury, the restoration will take further leaps forward.

Reverend Matthew Lawson, rector of Long Melford, said: "Visitors come from far and wide to admire the beauty and craftsmanship of our medieval stained glass.

The stained glass at Long Melford Church will benefit from an £800,000 restoration project  Picture: MIKE PAGEThe stained glass at Long Melford Church will benefit from an £800,000 restoration project Picture: MIKE PAGE

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"I'm delighted that we can now start displaying it to its full potential, for the first time in hundreds of years, with the aid of this generous legacy."

In his book "England's Thousand Best Churches", historian Sir Simon Jenkins heralded the church as one of only 18 churches with a five star rating.

Windows at the church include eight medieval windows, including a rare Pieta image of the Virgin Mary, which experts say is one of three so far found in England.

The stained glass at Long Melford Church includes portraits of locals who donated to the church in the medieval period  Picture: CATHEDRAL STUDIOSThe stained glass at Long Melford Church includes portraits of locals who donated to the church in the medieval period Picture: CATHEDRAL STUDIOS

Michael Archer, former keeper of ceramics and glass at the Victoria and Albert Museum, said the church boasts a "very special and extremely rare collection."

But with so much more to be done, the church is now attempting to raise an ambitious £500,000 to finance the remaining work - which includes adding an additional layer of hand-blown, laminate glass to protect from further corrosion.

It is expected the work will take up to five years to complete.

Rev Lawson added: "Handsome as the bequest was, it is not enough to cover the full restoration project, but we hope that a grass-roots fundraising drive will raise the profile of the glass, both locally and further afield, to make us all more appreciative of this wonderful national treasure."

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