Heritage Project, St Peter and All Hallows Church, West Huntspill


Thanks to the National Lottery Heritage Fund grant, development of this project is underway.

Feb 2024  April 2023  January 2023    Huntspill Hub    July 2022  June 2022  May 2022  April 2022  Work Started  NLHF   NCT Grant  MP Visit  Boards removed  NLHF Grant  Statement of Need  Statement of Significance  Project Overview 

February 2024, Progress Update

The Practical Completion certificate for all the building work was signed on the 24th of March 2023, almost a year after work had started on the internal reordering and tower repairs.

Still to be completed was the decorating of the inside of the main part of the Church, an addition to the main contract, this took approximately three weeks with the decorating of the inside of the base of the tower not being finished until Christmas.

While the building works were finished, the Interpretation (that some may think the most interesting) had only just started. We intend to create a Heritage Hub showing information, photos and illustration about the Church, the village and the surrounding area. The Touchscreen TV was the first instalment of this, which has now been updated with a section showing a tremendous amount of material collected since the mid 70’s by John Lamb. Another section showing panoramic views of the inside of the Church, Tower, Ringing Room, Bell Room and views from the top of the Tower.

The children of West Huntspill Primary School were invited to help produce a map of the village by drawing some of the houses in the village. Imogen Davis, a graphic artist visited the school twice and worked with the children to produce the finished map. The design was then produced as a large floor covering for the children’s corner in the Hub, with all the names of the children who had contributed to the map.

As part of creating a Heritage Hub seven wall hangings were to be produced describing the history of the Church, the fire, flooding of the area, and the village. These hangings have been researched, using some of the information provided by John Lamb, designed by Freeline Graphics, and we hope will be in place by early March.

We have also been busy writing a booklet on the history of the Church and village, which we hope will be available from March 2024. 

The painting of the Charles II Coat of Armes and The painting of St Peter healing the Cripple were returned and rehung in there new places in the Church. Now fully repaired, cleaned and conserved, looking so much better, They arrived on the 12th February 2024, over two years after they were removed. 

Much thanks goes to our generous funders including everyone who plays the Lottery, without who this project would not have been possible.

April 2023, Update on the National Lottery Heritage project to restore the Tower 

The capital work on the Tower is now complete.

Three and a half tons of loose stone and cement pointing was removed, and a plan identifying the stone that needed to be replaced, plus identification of what could be repaired with deep pack pointing and shelter coating was developed. Work started at the end of the summer.

During the annual Car Show in September, people in small groups were invited up onto the scaffolding to see the work being carried out by skilled stonemasons, and after Christmas school Children from West Huntspill Primary School also visited the Church to see and get an understanding of the work being done on the tower.

Large stainless steel tie bars were put through the walls of the parapet to hold the tower square and together. The large stainless nuts, bolt end and huge washers can be seen from the ground. Cintec anchors were set into the buttresses in November and January,  so that they were once again helping to support the tower. As the stone repairs and replacement was finished on each stage of the tower, it was signed off and slowly the scaffolding was struck section by section, the top was removed in December and it was all down by the beginning of March. The tower is looking so much better now, and there is no falling stonework, so all the protective fencing has also now gone, and the footpath is again open

The main contractors have now left the site and all the restoration and reordering is complete. The inside of the main part of Church has been repainted, this is the first time it has been repainted since the mid 1970’s.

The next stage is to develop the ‘interpretation’, which will illustrate and tell the story of the history of the Church, Village and surrounding area, as well as inform about the local wildlife and ecology. A history group is being formed to do the research with much help from John Lamb’s albums and knowledge of the Church and area. We hope this will create an interesting addition to anyone’s visit to the Church. It is our intention to also add detailed Churchyard records to all this. All will be on a much expanded touch screen TV as well as on wall hangings, in leaflets and a book,  forming a Heritage Hub.

The Huntspill Hub Cafe on Monday mornings continues to thrive with between 40 and 50 most Monday mornings as well as the craft group. The honesty cafe continues to attract people throughout the week, even in the winter, with people visiting graves and walking dogs (dogs are welcome in the Church), all pleased to pop in for a self-service hot drink and the use of the toilets. We are hoping that as the weather improves numbers for this will increase.

Local Clubs and Societies are hoping to use the space, and we have a number of course planned by the WEA . The Huntspill Art Group are planning an exhibition in the summer, and talks are planned through the summer.

The Huntspill Hub is developing well with many more activities at the planning stage, it is so nice to see the building being used more.

January 2023, West Huntspill Primary Academy visit The Heritage Project 

December 2023, Welcome to the Huntspill Hub and Honesty Café

The Official opening of the Huntspill Hub took place on Saturday 10th December between 2.00 to 4,00 pm, when a good number joined us as you can see. The Revd. Chris performed the ceremony, and it was toasted by all.

Why not pop along to the Huntspill Hub and visit the West Huntspills Honesty café which is open daily 10am-4pm. 

All donations gratefully received 

Open to all.

For more information visit Huntspill Hub

July 2022, progress update

Work started on the tower as soon as the scaffolding was complete, towards the end of July.

The intention was to dismantle and then rebuild the parapet first, removing all the old iron cramps replacing them with stainless steel and eliminating the cracks. Unfortunately previous repairs had been carried out using a very strong cement mix making it very difficult to dismantle.

Work has continued, although slowly until a different method was developed, of only removing what stone was absolutely necessary to replace the old cramps and replace with new. All the lose stone and cement pointing have now been removed from the tower, about three and a half tonnes intotal.

The ecologist has established a rare gray long eared bat has now taken up day residence in the Tower, preventing any internal work in the Tower until a licence can be obtained.

It is expected Work will continue on and in the Tower until at least the end of the year, and possibly into January. The photos show the top of the Tower and Work on the parapet, with details of an old cramp, and a new one in place.

June 2022, progress update

The floor is nearing completion, some edging tiles still needing repairs. The font is now in its new position, and has been used for its first Baptism.

The kitchen in the West end of the North Aisle is almost complete, with just the tiling to be finished, electrics to be connected, and Oak folding doors to be fitted.

Toilets are now fitted out, with tiling yet to be done, and door locks and some other fitting to be put in this week. It is hoped to have everything fully operational for the Summer Fete.

May 2022, progress update

April 2022, progress update

Work continuing apace with the reordering. The toilet cubicles are now well under construction. The wooden floor has been taken up to make necessary repairs.

April 2022, work has started 

National Lottery funding for church to help community hit hard by pandemic

An historic Somerset church has been awarded National Lottery funding to help tackle isolation caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Grade I Listed St Peter and All Hallows in West Huntspill has been awarded £678,200 by The National Lottery Heritage Fund for essential repairs and to become a vital hub for the community.

Plans for the church were already in development before the pandemic began, but were reshaped to put the church at the heart of addressing the impacts on the community and surrounding areas.

Consultation for the project has demonstrated a rise in isolation, mental health issues and digital poverty and a decreased sense of community connectivity. Since the pandemic began the local school has reported a rise in those on pupil premium and neighbouring Highbridge South West has moved from being Somerset’s 6th most deprived ward to being its most deprived ward as well as within the 10% most deprived neighbourhoods in England.

The National Lottery funded project particularly aims to reach those who are elderly, disadvantaged or isolated and children and young people.

Plans include:

  • Creating a talking café with IT support at the church to help reduce isolation and address digital skills gaps which are making people less connected
  • Installing an honesty café with locally sourced products and toilet and kitchen facilities to enable groups to use the church
  • Running community exhibitions and a range of activities
  • Introducing Scout achievement badges and resources for school

The project will also carry out essential repairs to the at risk Grade I Listed church, particularly to the stonework and roof of the tower.

Originally established in 1208, St Peter and All Hallows is known regionally as the ‘Cathedral of the Levels’ and was once at the centre of the harbour village of Huntspill before the Bristol Channel Tsunami of 1607 destroyed much of the village. New interpretation will tell the story of the site’s long history.

The church now sits on the edge of West Huntspill. With public access from the churchyard to the South West Coastal Path, a maternity roost of bats and a vantage point over a heronry on the River Parrott, St Peter and All Hallows has some incredible natural heritage to share with the local community and tourists, which will form another key part of the project.

David Lemon Project Coordinator at St Peter and All Hallows said: “Without this funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, it would not be possible to either maintain this beautiful historic building or adapt it for today’s community needs. During the eight hundred years, that a Church has stood on this site it has continually developed and changed to meet the changing needs of that community, and this is another step on that journey.

“In two recent village surveys it was very evident that the community needed a centre or hub to reduce isolation and grow a united community, which this carefully designed reordering of the west end of the Church will do.”  

Stuart McLeod, Director London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Heritage has an essential role to play in making communities a better place to live and in supporting personal wellbeing, so we are delighted to support this project which aims to put historic St Peter and All Hallows at the heart of making a positive change for people impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.”

Ann Gunnell-Parker, resident of West Huntspill and Parish Councillorsaid: “I was pleased to attend a meeting a St Peter and All Hallows Church on Saturday 11th December to gain an understanding of the plans for the development of a community hub in the church. During the meeting I was amazed by the huge amount of work that has already gone into this project and by the extent of the planned works.

“These works include the removal of the pews to the west of the entrance which will allow space for community events and enable the current “kitchen” area to be moved to the main body of the church to form a community cafe. The current kitchen area will become a storage area and much needed toilets will be installed. Toilets will facilitate so many activities including scout group sleep overs and attracting Coast Path walkers to the community cafe. Indeed, there were so many ideas for events ready to be activated once the work is complete and most of them are dependent upon toilet facilities being available. I look forward to seeing how the funding and the work progresses.”

Steve Davis, Headmaster at West Huntspill School, said: “Everyone at West Huntspill Primary School (part of The Priory Learning Trust) were delighted to hear that The National Lottery Heritage Fund grant application has been successful. This will be fantastic for the whole community and have such a positive impact on how the school can build further links with our local church. The new toilets will mean the children can now use the church and its grounds for fieldwork and historical exploration as well as at special festivals and celebrations throughout the year”

Christmas gift for St Peter and All Hallows, West Huntspill

A much-loved Somerset church is to share in a £473,700 funding package from the National Churches Trust. 

A £10,000 National Churches Trust Cornerstone Grant will help fund urgent repairs and work to St Peter and All Hallows and keep the church at the heart of the local community.

The church also receives a £10,000 Wolfson Fabric Repair Grant from the Wolfson Foundation, on the recommendation of the National Churches Trust.

The work will help to remove the church from Historic England’s ‘At Risk’ Register.

Broadcaster and journalist Huw Edwards, Vice President of The National Churches Trust, said:

“I’m delighted that the beautiful church of St Peter and All Hallows, Huntspill is being helped with a £10,000 National Churches Trust Cornerstone Grant and a £10,000 Wolfson Fabric Repair Grant.”

“The grants will help fund much needed repairs to the tower and roof, and installing a kitchen and toilets. This will safeguard unique and much loved local heritage and help St Peter and All Hallows continue to support local people.”

A total of 47 churches and chapels in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland will benefit from the latest grants from the National Churches Trust, the charity supporting church buildings of all Christian denominations across the UK. £155,700 of the £473,000 grant funding has been provided by the Wolfson Foundation.  

In 2021 the National Churches Trust has awarded or recommended 273 grants totalling £3.67 million to help keep church buildings open and in good repair. The total includes £2 million from the Heritage Stimulus Fund, part of the Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund. 

Paul Ramsbottom, Chief Executive at the Wolfson Foundation, said:

“As well as being the spiritual heart of their communities, churches remain a vital part of the UK’s heritage and history. We know that it can be challenging for churches to access funding to keep these remarkable buildings in good repair, particularly in the wake of the pandemic. We are therefore delighted to continue our work with the National Churches Trust in supporting the preservation of churches across the UK.”

Twenty-seven churches, from Moray in north-east Scotland to Callington in Cornwall, will benefit from a share of £155,700 in the latest round of the Wolfson Fabric Repairs Grants programme with the National Churches Trust.

This latest round of funding takes the number of churches funded through the Wolfson Fabric Repairs scheme in 2021 to 67.

The church  

St Peter and All Hallows is known as one of the best country churches in Somerset, which is often called The Cathedral of the Levels.

A Christian community is believed to have existed at Huntspill since AD 796 when, during the reign of the Saxon King Offa, the Manor and land at Huntspill was given to Glastonbury Abbey. Huntspill is listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Honspil.

There has been a church on this site since 1194. It was rebuilt in the 1400’s and restored to its former glory after a fire in 1878. Today, the pillars are still a unique red/orange colour as a result of the fire.

The church features distinctive architectural details include cinque-foil cusped perpendicular windows, stone carved gargoyles and embattlements. The Tower is believed to have been built in the 15th Century.

Within the village, the church is the only Grade I Listed building and the church and its tower is key to the identity of the village.

The project

The work will include repairs to the tower and roof, and installing a kitchen and toilets.

David Lemon, Project Coordinator, said

“St Peter and All Hallows Church Parochial Church Council are very pleased to receive a Cornerstone grant of £10,000 from the National Churches Trust, and a further Fabric Repair Grant of £10,000 from the Wolfson Foundation.”

“This will be an important part of funding for a major Tower restoration and the reordering of the West end of the church. Work on the Tower will repair the crumbling stone, on the part of the church which has stood as a local landmark for more than 500 years, and make the building waterproof again.”

“The reordering in the West end of this large village church will provide toilets and improved catering facilities making this a much-needed community hub for the village and surrounding area whilst maintaining the flexibility to hold large services when needed. The church will also be an ideal destination for the ‘heritage tourist’, being so close to the National Coastal Path as well as Burnham-on-Sea, Berrow and Brean.”

December 2021, Member of Parliament for Bridgwater & West Somerset, Ian Liddell-Grainger, visits Church Tower

Saving the Heritage, Sustaining the Community .

The project team at St Peter & All Hallows Church, West Huntspill were delighted to welcome the Member of Parliament for Bridgwater & West Somerset Ian Liddell-Grainger to the Church to see the plans to repair the Church Tower and to re-order the west end into a community hub open to all.  
Mr Ian Liddell-Grainger pictured with the project team was very supportive of all the work that has been done so far, interested, and enthusiastic about the future plans.  

September 2021, Benefaction boards removed for restoration

The oil painting of St Peter healing the cripple, the oil painting of the Royal Arms to Charles ll (c.1660-1685) and the four Benefaction boards have today been taken away for restoration by Peter Martindale Conservation.

They will be returned next year when hopefully most of the reordering of the inside of the Church is complete. The painting of St Peter is one of the few things which remain from before the fire, when it had formed part of the reredos behind the Altar.

The condition is poor with flaking paint and very dark varnish, so hopefully on its return, it will look more as it did when it was originally painted.

September 2019,  St Peter and All Hallows Church West Huntspill wins National Lottery Heritage Fund support

St Peter and All Hallows Church has received a development grant of £97,100 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) for their ‘Saving the Heritage, Sustaining the Community’ project, it was announced today. 

Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the project team can now work with architects, conservators and the community to plan the project in greater detail. The project aims to celebrate the heritage of the church, a Grade 1 listed building, by providing a better welcome and interpretation of our long and significant history, and building closer relationships with different communities in the area, including disadvantaged groups and local residents.    

This is the first of three phases enabling us to sustain the building for greater community cohesion and create a hub for village life. ‘The Saving the Heritage, Sustaining the Community’ project has several objectives, including

  • Tackling urgent masonry repairs to the tower;
  • Installing essential toilets and kitchenette;
  • Focusing on the natural history and biodiversity in our graveyard and village including bats and a heronry, encouraging walkers from the nearby coastal path to visit, as well as local people to enjoy circular walks from the church to improve health and wellbeing;
  • Delivering a programme of targeted activities for elderly and isolated residents, primary school children, young people, walkers, as well as local people and holiday makers interested in the history of the building and the village;
  • Providing permanent interpretation and displays about the church in its parish.

St Peter and All Hallows is a living building, which has changed and evolved over the centuries: the changing needs of the congregation and the village, as well as normal wear and tear and weathering, are part of the continuing life of the building. An area around the tower is currently fenced off to prevent falling masonry injuring passers-by: National Lottery support for this project will make the tower safe and ensure the future of the church in the life of West Huntspill.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund grant applications over £250,000 are assessed in two rounds St Peter and All Hallows Church Tower Project has initially been granted round one development funding of £97,100 by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, allowing it to progress with its plans. Detailed proposals are then considered by The National Lottery Fund at a second round, where a final decision is made on the full funding award of £493,600.

Using money raised by the National Lottery, we Inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future.

Commenting on the award, Project Co-ordinator David Lemon said: “We’re delighted that we’ve received this initial support thanks to National Lottery players. This award means that we can start planning the project in detail before submitting our final application within the next 18 months.”

For further information, images and interviews please contact (David Lemon) at St Peter and All Hallows Church on telephone  01278 783173    or david.lemon4@gmail.com

Statement of Need

St Peter and All Hallows Church is the Parish Church of the rural village of West Huntspill and hamlet of Alstone. Since 2015 the Church has been open daily during daylight hours, this has proved very successful with many visitors to the historic Church. Click to view full Statement of Need PDF  document.

Statement of Significance

Within the village, the Church is the only Grade 1 listed building, confirming high national significance of the building as a whole. The presence of the Tower in the landscape is of high significance to the identity of the village. The Views from the Tower, which dominates the landscape, are spectacular: to the east and south east, the Somerset Levels to Glastonbury Tor; to the west, the Parrot Estuary, Bridgwater Bay, Steart Flats Nature Reserve, and the Quantock Hills; to the north west, the coastline at Burnham-On-Sea, the Bristol Channel and Wales in the distance. Not only are the views from the Tower spectacular but the Tower is a well-known landmark, being seen by passing traffic on the M5.Click to view full Statement of Significance PDF   document.

Project Overview

The Roof and Tower Project
Repairs, Renovation and Reordering of St Peter and All Hallows Church, West Huntspill

The development of this Major project has continued despite the coronavirus, all be it at a slower pace than we would have liked. With the Church initially locked many of the surveys, which are not so visible, but so essential to the development of this large project, were not possible. Even when we were able to enter the church with social distancing, many companies were reluctant to carry out site visits, meaning progress was understandably slow. We were able to get the measured survey done just before the first lockdown. This involved the use of very clever equipment which took many thousands of measurement every minute both inside and out giving us accuracy never previously possible.

It was not until the first lockdown was eased that the ‘Rope Survey’ which involved men abseiling down the outside of the Church, photographing examining and recording the condition of the stonework, it was at this point that the men became closely acquainted with bees nest on the East side of the tower. Samples were taken of the stone and mortar for analysis and matching to local quarries for eventual stone replacement.

As restriction slowly eased more surveys took place. The ecologists were able to establish what bats were resident in the tower including a quite rare long eared grey horseshoe bat. The Structural Engineer was able to pronounce the structure of the tower stable although there was some bulging at the top of the tower, and designs were drawn up to arrest this movement. An Archaeological report was drawn up to look at the history of the Church before the fire. The Church was surveyed for asbestos, which was only found under the sink in the Kitchen, this will be remover when the reordering happens. We commissioned a conservation report on the two paintings and four charity boards at the back of the Church with the aid of a grant. The paintings were found to be in a poor condition, some work will be needed before we can move them to their new place in the Church. New additional lighting including emergency lighting has been designed for the West end of the Church, and the addition of a lightning conductor has been considered. The Architect, Marcus Chantrey has now brought all the reports together into his report and the Quantity Surveyor is now costing the project, which will be finalised when the tenders come back from the seven contractors, who have expressed an interest in the project.

An Option Appraisal has been developed to establish the best layout for the new kitchen and toilets, with a Management and Maintenance plan to manage the maintenance of the Church over the next ten years and beyond.

While all these reports were being drafted we have been developing an Activity Plan for the extended use of the west end of the Church after the reordering, a Business Plan to help that Church community hub to be viable, and an interpretation plan to add interest in the Church and surrounding area.

The Diocese have approved a faculty ‘B’ for the restoration work of the tower. We are yet to get the full Faculty for the reordering, although the DAC are in agreement with all of our application.
At this point we are hopeful of getting almost £700,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and we have raised almost another £51,000 from other grant funding bodies. We are continuing to apply for grants as we need to raise at least another £240,000. The success so far has been entirely due to the very strong team of professionals that make up the project team, and the support of the PCC, the congregation and the village.

Stained Glass Window Refurbishment

It was identified in the Quinquennial (the five yearly report on the condition of the fabric of the Church) that the four stained glass windows in the main part of the Church were in need of repairs to the ferramenta, and repairs to one of the mullions. The repairs to the Wade Window was generously funded by the ‘Friends of St Peter and All Hallows’, and the others by the Church, they all look so much better now.

Covid-19 Emergency Heritage at Risk Roof Repairs

We were lucky enough to receive a grant of £15,000 from Historic England for emergency repairs to the Church roof, which has just been completed. This will, it is hoped, buy us some time with the roof, while we concentrate on the work of the tower. The roof covering is as put there after the fire of 1878, and is nearing the end of its life. Once the tower has been repaired, then phase two will be to completely replace the covering on both the North and South Aisle.

What Happens Now

On 25th August we submitted our application for Round 2 of the National Lottery Heritage Fund grant. This will help fund the Delivery stage of the project and we await there decision, which we expect towards the end of November. If we are successful then we expect to have the contractors on site at the beginning of March 2022. This will be the culmination of nearly six years work, with completion of the project in the Spring of 2023.

Our Church is of national significance, sometimes referred to as the ‘cathedral of the levels’ and therefore worth preserving, so it is up to us at this stage of the Churches long history to preserve it for future generations. It is with everyone’s help, especially the ‘Friends’ to take this wonderful building on into the future adapting it for today’s needs.

Click to view full Statement of Need PDFdocument. Click to view full Statement of Significance PDF  document.

EH – East Huntspill     WH – West Huntspill      M – Mark

Look forward to seeing you.