A Story in Stone
The 1,000 year old church of St Mary Magdalene in Geddington features an early 15th century reredos. This is the screen behind the High Altar symbolising the Last Supper before Christ was crucified. It is a carved and decorated stone structure with 13 niches that today contain finely painted pictures of the crucified Christ and the 12 apostles, painted c. 1890 by Sir Ninian Comper, a famous architect who worked extensively at Westminster Abbey and who designed and built St. Mary’s, Wellingborough.
Our reredos had been damaged by the past use of the wrong kind of mortar, causing increased moisture levels over several decades that damaged the stonework and painted panels. We commissioned a Conservation Report with detailed recommendations and costings, which we obtained funding to carry out. The conservation work provided an anchor for the other strands of the project by engaging online and on-site visitor interest, pointing to the wealth of historical, artistic and architectural interest within the church (and village), exciting the interest of local schoolchildren and illustrating the fragility of Britain’s heritage and the need to support its conservation for future generations.
We were awarded a grant of £66,952 by The National Lottery Heritage Fund for a project called ‘A Story in Stone’. Together with contribution from the church’s own funds and generous support from The Friends of Geddington Church; the Church Buildings Council; The Francis Coales Charitable Foundation; The Leche Trust; The Northamptonshire Historic Churches Trust; The John Warren Foundation; and The Society of Antiquaries, The National Lottery Heritage Fund grant brought the total project budget to nearly £116.000.
The Church worked with a range of partners to make the project a reality, including Geddington CofE Primary School, Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust, Boughton Estates and Geddington Local History Society. The highly skilled conservation work on the reredos will be carried out by Hirst Conservation Ltd. of Sleaford, Lincs. The great east window above the reredos, which Sir Ninian Comper created in 1892 was also cleaned and repaired.
It is anticipated that the project will run for c. 12 months, with the funding enabling the team to not only restore the reredos, but also deliver a series of educational activities with local schools and run a programme of public events. Jim Harker, Chair of the Project Steering Group, commented: “We are tremendously excited to be undertaking a project of such historical importance. The rich history at Geddington provides a wealth of material from which our church’s stones, monuments and archives can illuminate the national story, and with which not only local people but a much wider public can be informed and enthused about our collective history and heritage. We hope to use this process to spark interest in the historical context, and also to highlight the importance of conservation work and to engage young people in the evidence and evolution of social history through the ages. We are extremely grateful to The National Lottery Heritage Fund, to everyone who plays The National Lottery, and to all our other funding partners for making such generous commitments to our heritage and our community.”
The restoration is being carried out by Hirst Conservation Ltd. Throughout their conservation work, which is expected to last several months, they will be posting to a conservation blog which you can see by following the link below.
With grateful thanks to all our funding partners
The Francis Coales
The Leche Trust
The Northamptonshire Historic Churches Trust
The John Warren Foundation
The Benham Charitable Settlement
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