Scaffolding sheathing the ancient chapel on the north side of Leighton Buzzard’s 13th century All Saints Church has just come down to reveal what has been going on underneath.
All the cement on the building has been removed and replaced with lime mortar, old blown stone has been carefully cut away and renewed. The battlemented parapets, which were cracked and becoming dangerous, have been rebuilt making the building safe and fit for a few more hundred years.
This is the final phase of a project which was begun in 1999 and has seen the entire building restored to a very high standard.
“It has been a long, hard journey, with some setbacks along the way but many high points too,” said appeal director and fabric chairman Terry Warburton.
“When I look at All Saints I feel a real sense of pride that Leighton Buzzard is well on its way to having the finest restored medieval church in the country.”
Work is not quite finished. With help from a grant, the large east window above the altar is to be restored soon –something that could not be afforded when the chancel was done – and early next year the church’s huge Harrison organ, installed after the 1985 fire, is to be entirely cleaned and overhauled.
Over the years of repair work, despite careful protection, dust and grit have got into the works causing it to malfunction. Nearly all its thousands of pipes need to be removed and cleaned and its mechanical parts lubricated.
Music is an important part of the church’s life, with a fine choir rapidly gaining a countrywide reputation. Last year they sang the services at Hereford cathedral and in May they will be at Southwark cathedral.
“It has all cost getting on for £2m and we are greatly indebted to the many people who have dug deep to help. Any money donated now will go towards the cost of the organ repairs and also to help cover the cost of some redecoration inside, all collateral damage” added Mr Warburton.
“The Trust is independent of the church and will go on as a resource to be drawn on. Careful regular maintenance is essential for a building as old and as fragile as All Saints and problems cannot be left to fester if we are to avoid the situation we faced in 1998.”
A celebration is planned for next year to mark completion of the project.