An ambitious project to save Grantham’s landmark parish church spire has reached an exciting new phase.
Scaffolding is almost to the top of the 86m spire and engineers will begin removing the top 40ft of the structure within the next few weeks.
Meanwhile, fund-raisers are within just £10,000 of their target for funding the £600,000 scheme.
Appeal chairman Jean Parker said: “The fund-raising campaign has gone wonderfully well.
“There has been a lot of enthusiasm from the action group and this has spread right through the town.
“Grantham people have really taken up the challenge and have been organising all sorts of fund-raising events.
“Engineers working on repairs to the spire of St Wulfram’s parish church are about three weeks ahead of schedule, thanks to good weather, which has spared them the perils of high winds, rain, snow and ice.”
The appeal to save the third highest parish church spire in the country has been bolstered by substantial grants from English Heritage and several charitable trusts, including the National Churches Trust, and Lincolnshire churches Trust.
But local fund-raisers have still had to pull out all the stops to raise the remaining £250,000. Scores of fund-raising events have been held, ranging from an abseil down the side of the tower of St Wulfram’s, which raised £8,000, to coffee mornings.
Other well-supported events have included a sponsored cycle ride which raised £5,000, two concerts staged by pupils from 20 local schools which raised £3,500 and the sale of hundreds of scarves knitted by volunteers.
Jean Parker said: “Volunteers have organised all sorts of events and the project has really caught people’s imagination. St Wulfram’s is such a spectacular building and one the whole town is proud of.”
Now the scaffolding is in place, engineers can begin work on the next phase of the work.
This will involve removing the 10ft high weather vane and lifting clear 16ft of stone which makes up a ‘cap’. Although thought to be in good condition, this must be removed and kept to one side on the scaffold before it can be put back later. Next, workmen will remove the damaged 24ft section of stone and cast iron ties, which need to be repaired. The cast iron ties used to strengthen this part of the spire when it was rebuilt in 1790 is the cause of the current problems. Over more than 200 years the 6in thick iron cramps have corroded and damaged the masonry. They will be replaced with stainless steel fittings, and the stonework repaired.
Grantham people are being urged to give the appeal a timely boost next weekend by supporting a major fund-raising event. Spire appeal organisers are hoping several thousands of pounds will be made when the Duchess of Rutland’s Belvoir Lodge garden is opened from noon to 4pm on Saturday, May 17.
Jean said: “This is a unique opportunity to enjoy the beautiful four-and-a-half acres of garden, with stunning views across the Vale of belvoir. It should be a great family day out.”
There will be live music throughout the day, refreshments will be available and there will be a plant stall.
A highlight will be a Spitfire flypast planned between 1.50pm and 2.10pm.
Entrance is £5, free for under 12s.