ST MARY’S Church in Ickworth has been awarded £52,100 after passing the first round of the English Heritage and Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant application process.
If successful, Ickworth Church Conservation Trust (ICCT) would receive more than £590,000 from the HLF and £325,000 from English Heritage to save the church from ruin.
The trust is hoping that the project will also be considered for an English Heritage ‘Angel’ award, launched recently by Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Frederick 8th Marquess of Bristol set up the ICCT four years ago to restore the grade II* listed church to its former glory.
Simon Pott, a trustee of the Trust, said the money was important in establishing their second phase application.
He said: “This is really only the first hurdle in getting the church back in shape.
“It has provided a little over £50,000 which means we can develop the project for the second round of the application. We have made the place wind and watertight already with the tremendous help of the English Heritage.
“It is the oldest building on the estate by probably three or four hundred years. I am very happy to play a part in trying to make this dream come true.”
St Mary’s Church is a medieval building with major 19th century alterations, including the tower.
It was sold to the 7th Marquess of Bristol in 1986 after being declared redundant by Church Commissioners. The church has fallen into disrepair since that time and has been on the English Heritage’s ‘Heritage at risk’ register since it began in 1998.
Emergency repairs were made to the church at the end of 2008 costing £57,300, £37,000 of which came from the English Heritage.
Lord Bristol said: “St Mary’s Church is hugely important to the Ickworth Estate as it is the linchpin that links all the other historic buildings on the estate.
“It contains some 35 monuments to the Hervey family and dedications to their staff covering hundreds of years of local history.
“I am very grateful for the ongoing support of English Heritage and the HLF in our efforts to restore this beautiful church.
“We plan to make it fully accessible to the public and add interpretation so it can once again play an active part in telling the story of the wider Ickworth Estate.
“My colourful ancestors over the past five centuries whose portraits visitors see when going round Ickworth House are buried in this church.
“The Ickworth Estate attracts over 160,000 visitors each year and I hope being able to see the church will make visits even more enjoyable in future.”