Ancient church tower in East Leicestershire secures significant Heritage Lottery Fund investment for urgent repairs.

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has awarded St Thomas Beckett Church, Tugby, £154,100, for urgent repairs to the tower roof and internal structures. Specifications for the grant award include improved access arrangements in the bell chamber and the installation of a lightening conductor. These repairs and improvements will ensure the tower is made watertight and will preserve its heritage for future generations, including the maternity colony of Natterer’s Bats in the belfry. Once complete, the Grade II* listed church can then be removed from Historic England’s ‘Heritage At Risk’ register.

A small HLF grant has also been awarded for new building works in the tower base, including the installation of an accessible WC and of ramps to the porch and tower entrances. The introduction of these new facilities alongside other improvements will enable greater and wider community use. Increased church, social and fundraising activities will breathe more life into this historic building making it more sustainable for the future.

The HLF grant will also give people the chance to learn about Tugby’s unique heritage. School children, community groups and individuals will benefit from numerous heritage activities including leaflets telling the story of Tochi, a great king’s thegn, who built the village’s first church after which Tugby is named, educational activity sheets and accompanying resources for teachers, conservation care workshops, regular bell ringing taster sessions for all ages, family bat watch evenings and the creation of an attractive medieval herb/physic garden in the church yard.

Commenting on the award, Mrs Madeleine Wang, Project Leader on behalf of the Parochial Church Council, said: “We are thrilled to have received the support of the Heritage Lottery Fund. This generous grant award will ensure the long-term sustainability of our beautiful church. The tower will be fully repaired, watertight and dry throughout. With good maintenance access this ancient heritage will be saved for future generations.”

St Thomas Beckett Church, Tugby is a Grade II* church which sits on the village hilltop commanding a 360 degree view of High Leicestershire countryside and has been a Christian place of worship since it was built in 11C by a great Saxon King’s thegn named Tochi, after which the village is named.

The oldest part of the church is the tower, which is pre conquest / early Norman. The south doorway is also Norman. The remaining building dates from the 14th century, materials include ironstone rubble, limestone dressings and Welsh slate roofs. The porch door, nave with hammer beam roof and font are also 14th century. Of notable interest in the tower are four bells, all recorded in the national bell register: Hugh Watts 1602; Hugh Watts undated; A Rigby, Stamford, 1702; Thomas Mears, 1809.

In the Nave there is a blocked leper’s squint window in the chancel; several early wall monuments including two fine Elizabethan monuments, to the Neell (1574) and Skipwith families (1558) recording comprehensive family history. The church was fully pewed in 1837. During the past century: organ, electricity, lighting and heating were installed and in the past 20 years re-roofed and redecorated

About the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF)
Thanks to National Lottery players, we invest money to help people across the UK explore, enjoy and protect the heritage they care about – from the archaeology under our feet to the historic parks and buildings we love, from precious memories and collections to rare wildlife. www.hlf.org.uk. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #HLFsupported.

Further information
For further information, images and interviews please contact Madeleine Wang, Project Leader.