Gift of stone boosts St Wulfram’s appeal

Andy Smith at Glebe Quarries, Ancaster. 805D
Andy Smith at Glebe Quarries, Ancaster. 805D

A gift of the specialist stone needed for St Wulfrum’s Church spire repairs has helped the committee to reduce its funding target to under £70,000.

Father and son Terry and Andy Smith, of Glebe Quarries, Ancaster, have offered the Save Our Spire appeal committee the ideal Ancaster Hard White (uncut) stone for the job, meaning a potential saving of around £5,000.

Andy Smith said: “This was a chance to put something back into the local community and we are pleased to be able to help such a great cause.”

The gesture, combined with recently-received tenders for the work, means the appeal committee has £68,868 to raise, ideally before work starts on erecting the scaffolding in February.

“It is a bit tight,” admitted committee chair Jean Parker. “We have so far raised £156,190 from a large number of events organised by Granthamians, within and outside the congregation, and grants from trusts.

“This is a tremendous gift because it is just the stone the architect wanted us to use. It was a very generous offer and typical of the response we have had locally; we have raised far more money than we expected locally and we are very grateful for that.”

Total costs of the work, excluding VAT, are £428,269. The target when the appeal was launched in August 2012 was to raise £600,000.

At the time, the Rector, Canon Christopher Andrews, who has since retired, said: “Previous generations have all had to make sure the church is handed on in good repair. Now it is our turn. It’s just so big and important, locally and nationally. It’s recognised as a national monument.”

The spire – a Grantham landmark and regarded by many experts as the most beautiful in the country – has been part of the church for more than 700 years. The very top of the spire was fixed in 1946; now the top 40 ft needs to be removed and the bottom section rebuilding to prevent it from falling down.

The nesting of peregrine falcons, which began in February 2003, has complicated matters because groups like the RSPB and Owl and Hawk Trust insist the birds will only return if they miss one breeding season. This means the scaffolding will need to go up in February and be taken down in October next year, allowing the birds to return in 2015.

The committee has been awarded a £203,211 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund/English Heritage and is seeking other grants as well as continuing the local fund-raising activities.

Mr Smith said Ancaster Hard White had been used since Medieval times. The limestone is cream with slight yellow flecking and very consistent - it has been used on many famous buildings, including Lincoln Cathedral, St Pancras Station in London, Windsor Castle and Trinity College, Cambridge.

He said an advantage of using the local quarry was the the freshly-extracted stone was very easy to work with hand tools before becoming much harder and weather-proofed.