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Conservation work draws to a close

Three months of detailed, painstaking and (literally) revelatory work have come to an end and the Chancel of St Peter’s, Preston Park, shines bright with its Victorian stencilling cleaned and restored, and its plaster repaired. It has been a fascinating process to watch as the colours and shapes of the stencilling scheme have revealed themselves to be much so brighter and more ornate that we originally realised.

Although the hands-on conservation work has taken around 3 months, the process from initial idea to putting up the scaffolding has taken almost six years. A project like this doesn’t come quickly and has relied upon the voluntary work of the Friends of St Peter’s (do join!) Agreeing that this was a priority; understanding the scope of the work’ writing a brief for a conservator; recruiting a suitable company; writing and re-writing an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a grant; developing a programme of activities to tell people about what is happening at St Peter’s; recruiting the excellent Strike a Light to lead the creative workshops; negotiating the complexities of Listed Building Consent (not needed in the end); and finally setting a date to start work when the church wouldn’t be too cold and dark. All these stages had to be undertaken before the conservation work could even start. These last three months have just been the icing on the cake.

And what a cake we had, at our celebration lunch on 22nd September. Made by Committee Member, Jan Green, the beautiful cake was decorated with stencilled shapes from the Chancel and the logos of the HLF and the Churches Conservation Trust. It was a very fitting way to celebrate the completion of the conservation work. The lunch was attended by many of the volunteers who work so hard to keep the church open to the public, along with the CEO of the Churches Conservation Trust, Peter Aiers, the Mayor of Brighton and Hove, Dee Simson, local councillor, Leo Littman and representatives from the Royal Pavilion and Preston Manor. Our MP, Caroline Lucas, couldn’t make it on the day, but visited at another point and sent a video message for the Celebration Lunch. The event was a great way to thank the volunteers and other people who had supported us in our fulfilling our idea to see the chancel of St Peter’s restored to shining glory.

However, our project to explore and bring to the fore St Peter’s 20th century history, funded by the HLF, hasn’t quite finished yet. Our exhibition on Preston Village and the local men who died in World War One opens on the 27th September and runs through until October 7th. We are also working on new information panels for the church that will tell its story from the 13th century right up until 2018. Most importantly, we hope that you will come in to see the chancel. And when you do, look up in the back left-hand corner to see the ‘Witness Patch’ – a dark circle on the stencilling left uncleaned, to remind us all of what it looked like three months ago.

Before Restoration

After Restoration - but do come and see it for yourself!

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