Leaking church roof at St John’s, Saxmundham, set for repairs thanks to lottery grant

Work is starting on urgently-needed repairs to the leaking roof of a Suffolk church, where 57 patches have been discovered where rainwater is getting in.

Confirmation has now been received of a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for the work to the roof and windows at the 900-year-old church of St John the Baptist in Saxmundham.

HLF announced last year that it would be awarding a £163,100 lottery grant for the essential repairs to prevent further deterioration to the fabric.

“We’ve been working on the grant application for around two years,” said Robin Potter, who is leading the project on behalf of the church.

“And we’re absolutely delighted to have the go-ahead at last.

“Rainwater leaking through the south aisle roof, which already has 57 patches, is in danger of damaging timbers and will mean more expensive repairs if it’s left any longer.”

In addition to the south aisle problems, the nave and chancel slate roofs are in a very poor condition, as are some of the high level stone windows.

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Grade II* listed St John the Baptist is the oldest building in the town, its site a place of worship since Saxon times and one of only four in Suffolk listed in the Domesday survey.

Worship has taken place on the site since Saxon times, although it’s likely that the existing building dates from 11th Century.

The church was placed on the English Heritage “at risk” register in 2014 with its roof condition described as “very bad”.

Repairs to the fabric of the ancient building are part of a larger project to renovate and re-order St John’s.

Last year saw the replacement of the church’s Victorian pews with upholstered chairs for a more adaptable interior – creating a place for music, theatre and presentations.

Mr Potter said: “We want to use the opportunity created by this project to make the church more useful to the community of Saxmundham and for visitors to the town. Already, the re-ordering of the interior has made the space easier to adapt for concerts and group meetings, for example.”

The Heritage Lottery Fund award also includes plans to improve communications of the church’s heritage, highlighting historic points of interest, working with local schools, the wider community and Saxmundham Museum.

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