£20,000 for historic village church in danger of collapse

A DORSET church which closed as the roof could fall in, is set to re-open after being handed £20,000 in grants for urgent repairs.

The roof at St Nicholas of Myra Church, in Worth Matravers, could collapse at any moment.

Wooden battens, fixed into place with irons nails, are what is holding the roof tiles in place.

However, 175 years after being fitted, the battens have decayed, and the nails have rusted, while the stone roof tiles are also in poor condition and joints between the stone stiles are fractured.

The church – putting the safety of the community and congregation first – made the tough decision to temporarily close the building. Fencing around the church, reinforcements to the porch and protective netting above the nave, enable the church building to be open, however the chancel remains closed.

But these are only temporary measures – the roof needs to repaired urgently.

Failure to fix the roof will lead to the eventual structural collapse of this roof – which would devastate the important Norman building and the impressive heritage inside it.

Thankfully, help is at hand, as the much-loved Grade I Listed church is to share in a £496,625 urgent funding pay-out from the National Churches Trust.

A £10,000 National Churches Trust Grant will help to pay for urgent roof repairs, ensuring the church can thrive today and tomorrow.

The church also receives a £10,000 Grant from the Headley Trust, on the recommendation of the trust.

The interior of St Nicholas of Myra Church, in Worth Matravers. Pictures: James Mercer

The interior of St Nicholas of Myra Church, in Worth Matravers. Pictures: James Mercer

“Once the church roof is secure and watertight, the church will be able to return to its welcoming self plus put into action the exciting plans it has to host even more community events,” a trust spokesperson said.

“The church is currently open every day for visitors and it also holds regular history talks and welcomes local schools to visit and learn about the local history.

“Further school information packs, which tie into the curriculum and relate to the church and community history, are being developed as well as stone carving courses, which will be delivered in the church grounds.”

Claire Walker, chief executive of the National Churches Trust, said: “The National Churches Trust is excited to be able to support St Nicholas of Myra church to enable them to carry out urgent roof repairs to their building.

“Not only will this protect this important heritage, but it will help to keep the church building open and serving local people.

“Whether seeking quiet reflection, access to community services or a place to worship, the National Churches Trust helps hundreds of churches each year and with the support of local people, keeps them thriving today and tomorrow.”

James Mercer, chair of the Worth Roof Project Team at St Nicolas of Myra church, said: “We are very grateful to receive this grant as it will help us to safeguard the structural integrity of this ancient church. The church is at the heart of the small Worth Matravers community.

“The people of Worth and Purbeck have responded magnificently to the challenge of raising the circa £500,000 required to cover the costs of the rebuild and refurbishment.

“Funds have been raised locally through donations and creative fundraising initiatives including shared meals, open gardens and raffling a specially commissioned painting of the church, donated by Dorset artist Nicholas Hely Hutchinson.”

St Nicholas of Myra Church is one of the oldest churches in Dorset, built, or rebuilt, around the year 1100.

While most of the church is Norman – and still retains these Norman features, some stonework appears to be from an earlier building, which suggests there was a church on the site in the late Saxon period.

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