Shenstone’s old Church Tower Update
Thu 2 Sep 2021
Well friends, plans are now progressing apace for the restoration of our old church Tower. We have now set up the Friends as a charity, raised sufficient funds, obtained planning permissions and a lease, and have a start date of 16th August for the renovation and preservation of the Tower. Of course, fund-raising will continue to loom large in our lives to provide for the future use and maintenance of the Tower.
The Tower is all that remains of Shenstone’s medieval church which was built around 1200. This was built on the foundations of the first church in Shenstone which was built in Saxon times. The current church was built in the 19th century and the old church was knocked down apart from the old Tower which was left standing; the outline of the old church can still be seen in the churchyard.
Funding support of the project has been eye-wateringly impressive. Significant donations have come from many members of our community. We have also been supported by Lichfield District Council, Shenstone Parish Council, Shenstone Village Festival, Shenstone & Lichfield Artisans Golf Society and Friends of Greysbrooke School. Excellent support has also come from charitable institutions large and small including Historic England, HS2, the Garfield Weston Foundation, The Pilgrim Trust, The Leche Trust, and Bells Whisky. We are so grateful for this massive support from the whole community, for all donations large and small – they all played their part in helping to get our project under way.
We have retained the services of Mark Parsons, architect at Anthony Short & Partners, and he has completed plans for the restoration of the church Tower. These plans have been approved by Lichfield Diocese and Lichfield District Council. Now the plans are approved, Friends of Shenstone Tower have leased the building from the church, which allows us to access our grants and complete the renovation. The lease will run for 23 years, which allows the Friends to open the building for the enjoyment and education of the public. Part of the approval process was a bat survey that confirmed there are none in residence in the Tower. We also have approval to remove the self-set yew tree directly in front of the Tower, and we will replace this by planting another yew tree elsewhere in the churchyard.
We have already removed much of the ivy from the Tower to enable us to see accurately the true state of the walls and enabled the preparation of a meaningful, comprehensive design for their repair. The plans also include the design of internal floors and stairs which will enable safe access to the roof. The old roof has rotted away and the restoration includes its replacement and raising the parapet by 1.1 metres to meet safety regulations; the parapet will then consist of four courses of stonework where there are two at present, which rebuilds the parapet to its original height as can be seen in old pictures of the Tower. This will allow safe public access to the roof, which will be by arrangement only. When the repair of the Tower is complete, further work will be done to provide suitable facilities to open the Tower to the public. Work will start on the Tower on 16th August, and the Builders have agreed with the church where to site their facilities and equipment store, to minimise disruption.