Parishioners at St Margaret’s Church in Rainham are praising more than the Lord with the restoration of the 15th century church’s ceiling, completed thanks to a grant from Kent charity the Rochester Bridge Trust.
St. Margaret’s Church has been a place of worship for more than a millennium, with evidence of a church on the site in Saxon times, though the first record of the church is from around 1100 AD. Most of the church visible today was built between the 13th and 15th centuries, though a major restoration in the 1860s saw much of the stonework and windows replaced to reflect the original design.
One of the unique features of St Margaret’s is an ancient decorative ceiling (or ‘celure’) over the chancel of the Church. The Rochester Bridge Trust funded the cleaning and restoration of the celure through its charitable grants programme, which funds worthy causes in Kent. The celure dates from the late 15th century. The image in each compartment of the celure depicts a double-petalled rose surrounded by a sunburst that combines the Yorkist white rose in the sun, or ‘Rose en Soleil’, and the Lancastrian or Tudor red rose. This double rose represents the union of the House of Lancaster and the House of York in 1485, when Henry VII married Elizabeth of York to bring an end to the War of the Roses.
Due to its age and condition, St Margaret’s roof, the timber of which is mostly original, has required extensive restoration and repair work, as has the church tower. This has been funded by individual donations, organisations and charities such as the Rochester Bridge Trust, and a grant from the English Heritage lottery fund.
Tony Andrews from the St Margaret’s restoration committee said:
“St. Margaret’s plays an essential role in the Rainham community, serving a parish of more than 30,000. As the church is generally in good condition it was a great shock when a section of ceiling plaster fell in May 2006. Subsequent investigations revealed that urgent repairs were required to some of the roof timbers and the celure.”
Bridge Clerk Sue Threader said:
“We were pleased to be able to help preserve this piece of Kentish history. St Margaret’s is a unique site that has been a focal point for the local community for centuries, and fully deserves the specialised restorative work that will hopefully help maintain the church for many years to come.”
The ceiling restoration entailed careful removal of accumulated dust and cobwebs, along with application of a fixative to the badly flaking layer of paint. The delicate and labour intensive work was undertaken by Tom Organ of The Wall Paintings Workshop in Faversham, and resulted in the surface being fully stabilised and free of dirt.
The remainder of the restoration work at St Margaret’s is due for completion at the end of February 2010.
St. Margaret’s is open to the public every day during the daytime and holds five regular services throughout the week, as well as services for special events, funerals and weddings.
Notes to editors:
1.The Rochester Bridge Trust is a charitable trust that exists to maintain the bridges and serve the travelling public. The Rochester Bridge Trust has served the people of Kent for centuries by providing crossings over the River Medway and making charitable and educational grants and is regulated by the Charity Commission.
2. While both bridges are currently in good condition, it is expected that the Old Bridge, which was last replaced in 1914, and the New Bridge, which was built in the 1960s, will both need to be replaced this century. The Trust is ensuring that capital is saved to fund this.
For more information:
The Rochester Bridge Trust
Kent ME1 1QE
Tel: 01634 846706
Fax: 01634 840125
For further information, images and comment from Sue Threader, please contact Chris Rogers by telephone on 020 7463 0688 or by email at Chris.Rogers@whitehouseconsulting.co.uk
For further images and information about the restoration of St. Margaret’s Parish Church, see the St. Margaret’s website.