£91,000 funding boost for Flamstead church project

Painted arch, wall painting and rood screen at St Leonards, Flamstead
Painted arch, wall painting and rood screen at St Leonards, Flamstead

St Leonard’s Church, Flamstead, has received initial National Lottery support for its Living Histories, Lasting Journeys project.

The project aims to protect and share the heritage of the 12th century building for generations to come.

Twelve months of structural repairs are planned to start in 2020, in parallel with an ambitious programme to involve people of all ages in discovering more about those who have left their mark on the building during the 900 years since construction began.

Construction of the church started in 1120, on the site of a Celtic chapel. Since then, the building has evolved and changed as different generations left their mark on the architecture, decoration, monuments and graffiti.

An important series of wall paintings, second only in Herts to those in St Albans Cathedral and rediscovered in the 1930s, spans the 13th to 19th centuries. Medieval and Tudor inscriptions and images are scratched in the stone.

Monuments tell the stories of local families, some of whom had connections to the Tudor court. Documents and photographs spanning 120 years are yet to be digitised. The church bells, cast on site in 1664, are still rung from an ancient wooden bell-frame.

The Parochial Church Council has been awarded development funding of £91,200 by the Heritage Lottery Fund to help progress its plans to apply for a full National Lottery grant of £642,500.

As well as essential repair work to make the building structurally sound and weatherproof, the project aims to make the story of its history more readily accessible.

Volunteers will team up with local arts charities and experts to help schoolchildren learn history using St Leonard’s as a local example.

Local colleges will be involved in digital media projects and robotics contests designed to engage young people, who will also be involved in designing the displays and capturing living memories.

There are plans for a heritage learning officer to facilitate visits and talks, along with new graphics displays and a mobile guide.

Local embroiderers will create a wall-hanging recreating one of the most striking wall paintings, to be unveiled at the end of the project.