The Archbishops and Bishops of the Church of England have urged everyone to follow the instructions given by the Prime Minister to stay in their homes in a national effort to limit the transmission of the coronavirus (COVID-19).

But they called on the Church to “continue to pray, to love, to care for the vulnerable”.

It follows the announcement by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson of sweeping restrictions aimed at slowing the spread of the virus.

It means all Church of England churches will close with immediate effect in line with the Government’s instructions. There will also be no Church weddings or baptisms.

Funerals at the graveside or in crematoriums can still take place, but only in line with the Prime minister’s Statement.

In a joint statement the bishops said: “In the light of the Government’s measures, announced by the Prime Minister this evening, we urge everyone to follow the instructions given.”

We’re all but finished with our amazing project! In the last couple of weeks, the protection on the rood screen has been removed and the final parts of our project are beginning to take shape.

On Sunday 11th August, Bishop Jonathan will join us for a service of celebration where he will bless the work that’s been done. We’ll also have the chance to celebrate with a barbecue, a licensed bar and traditional games in the churchyard.

All are welcome to join us in celebration at 10:30am on Sunday 11th.

Please note the church remains closed during the week. After our next site meeting, we hope to give an indication of when we will be open again.

We’re pleased to say the the majority of our repairs project is now complete. Our completely rebuilt clerestory windows are now finished, and and the new rainwater downpipes are gradually appearing along the nave. What you can’t see is the new rainwater drainage system which is safely tucked away underground. The patches of new tarmac on the churchyard path show where two of our new rainwater soakaways have been installed.

The project is scheduled to be finished in August, and work will continue in the chancel until then. The rood screen remains underneath a protective box; we don’t want it to get damaged during the work! The organ is also wrapped up until we can be sure all the dust has settled.

Fantastic news for villagers is that the path through the churchyard is now re-opened, but as the work inside the building continues, the church remains closed to visitors, though we will soon reopen the church for Sunday services.

On Sunday 11th August at 10:30am there will be a service of celebration with the Bishop of Lynn, and this will be followed by a garden party in the churchyard – all are welcome.

It’s amazing just how fast a team of scaffolders can work! In the space of two days, the vast majority of the scaffolding in church has come down. The picture below is from yesterday evening, but already the church looks very different again.

As someone who’s had the privilege to ascend the scaffolding on many occasions to look at the angels and ponder, it’s been quite sad to see the scaffolding disappearing. It represents the end of a major phase of the project, and the conclusion of an amazing opportunity to spend time up there.

But it’s all hands on deck now, as we get the church ready for a very important memorial service on Saturday. That doesn’t mean the project is finished – far from it – but it does mean that we are getting close to being able to have our Sunday worship back in church. Alas, it will be a little while longer before the church is open to visitors again, but watch this space for updates.

It seems like a long time since the roof of the church was last visible from the floor of the nave. Our extensive repairs have required comprehensive scaffolding, and that scaffolding has given us a precious period of close access to the angel roof. Since just after Christmas 2018, a full deck of boards has created a false floor at the level of the hammer beams. Today, though, the boards have come up. Our resident bats need to spread their wings again, so the scaffolding has to come out; starting with the top level of boards. There’s still work to do on the windows, but that can be done from the scaffolding that remains. And so this was the view this evening, as the roof was revealed to us once more.

How appropriate it is that just in time for Easter, our rebuilt windows have started to return to the clerestory.

The windows are attached to bronze saddle bars to give them strength.

Having seen the windows on the bench last week, it’s so exciting to see them back where they belong.

Traditional methods; no UPVC or silicone sealant here!

Before long, we’ll begin the big clean-up, and will be able to get back to church for our Sunday worship. Obviously, we won’t be back in church for Easter, but it won’t be many more weeks before we’re back home.

A view of the Northern clerestory as the first two windows return.

A small delegation from the PCC went to the workshops of Devlin Plummer, today, to see the progress with the major renovation of our clerestory windows. The windows are all in the workshop right now. Half have been rebuilt, and the other half are in progress. The picture below shows the state of the old windows (this is one of the better examples).

Terry Devlin gave us a tour and told us about the painstaking process to record the dimensions and shapes of the many windows as they come into the workshop.

We then saw how the glass is cleaned and salvaged where possible, before the lead is completely renewed.

We saw the soldering process…

and the finishing process where the glass is all fixed in place (before being vacuumed).

Many thanks to Terry and his colleagues for showing us round. We can’t wait to see the windows coming back in from next week!

A host of Angels – Photo by Michael Rimmer

Well what a busy month we’ve had! March saw over 100 lucky visitors attending our four hard hat days in church. The sessions included a chance to ascend the scaffolding using some daunting ladders. The EDP’s Donna Louise Bishop posted this video of her ascent and wrote an article on the experience (however the article is no longer online).

Over the 4 sessions, we had visits from BBC Look East, BBC Radio Norfolk’s Anthony Isaacs (Listen here from 1:20:30). We also welcomed a number of experts who came to speak to our visitors about the importance of what they would see.

Michael Rimmer, author of the Angel Roofs of East Anglia visited along with Sarah Cassell (PhD Candidate on the subject of Angel Roofs), and they provided a wealth of information on the history of our roof. Art conservators Dr Andrea Kirkham and Dr Lucy Wrapson also gave insights into their work in the church as well as a fascinating perspective on the importance of the building and its treasures.

One of the green angels – photo by Michael Rimmer

We’re incredibly grateful to all who made these days possible, including members of the PCC, Gethin Harvey of Nicholas Warns Architects, and Keith and Jeff from GF Atthowe, our main building contractor.

Whilst the hard hat days are now complete, we hope to be able to offer similar opportunities in the future. The investigation work done as part of this repair project has identified need for a large amount of stabilisation work on the medieval paint, and so if we can find funds, we may well be back up with the angels again in a few years time.

Visitors were encouraged to post their pictures online, and many are available through the parish Facebook Page. Twitter users have also been adding pictures there using the hashtag #CawstonAngels.

Attention now turns to progressing the project and getting the important repair work done. We hope to see the clerestory windows returning to the church very soon, and the work in the churchyard is progressing well.

We’re also still seeking financial support for the project, so if you’d like to donate you can do so here. Don’t forget, if you’re a UK taxpayer, please tick the Gift Aid box.

Whilst we’ve had amazing support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the All Churches Trust, the Garfield Weston Foundation and the Lady Hind Trust, the project still requires further funds. If you would like to donate, please visit our donations page. Don’t forget to tick the gift aid box if you’re a UK taxpayer. Thank you for your help!

In an amazingly busy 2 days, all of the hard hat day places have been booked. For health and safety reasons our numbers are strictly limited and at this stage we don’t have plans to arrange further days, as to do so would risk delaying the completion of the project.

The hard hat days are now over and the waiting list is closed. Thank you for your interest – please do check back to see further progress with the project.