An independent report into the condition of the paintings at Astley concluded that :-
"Because of their extent and quality, the paintings at Astley are a particularly unusual survival and justify careful conservation. Their condition demonstrates that deterioration has been taking place for a long period of time, largely as a result of a failure of the building envelope and rain water disposal system. It is these same underlying causes of deterioration which have continued in recent years and are responsible for their current, very serious condition. If the paintings, and other sensitive fabric in the church, are to survive, it is essential that both the building envelope and the rain water disposal system function correctly and are properly maintained."
Tobit Curteis Associates, 36 Abbey Road, Cambridge CB5 8HQ.
The essential repair work to the fabric of the nave cost around £90,000. We received a grant from English Heritage of £48,000 which was conditional upon the rest of the money being raised. The church and its parishioners raised £15,000 and the remaining £27,000 was eventually raised from other external resources including:
- A H Lynall Foundation
- Alan Evans Memorial Trust
- Allchurches Trust Limited
- Church Buildings Council
- Council for the Care of Churches
- Coventry Diocese
- Francis Coales Charitable Foundation
- English Heritage
- Garfield Weston Foundation
- George Eliot Fellowship
- Leche Trust
- Manifold Trust
- Mrs Iris Morris
- National Churches Trust
- St Andrews Conservation Trust
- Viscount Daventry
- Warwickshire Historic Churches Trust
- William Cadbury Foundation
Donations were also received from members of the community in response to Reverend Peter Brown’s letter of appeal.
Monies raised enabled rendering to be removed from the exterior walls of the 14th century Nave to remove damp and allow the nine early 17th century wall texts to be conserved, along with two later wall texts in the chancel. The walls of the nave and chancel were also lime-washed. The work was carried out in 2 stages in 2008 and 2010.
Many thanks to English Heritage for their support and generous contribution and to Tobit Curteis the conservator.
Moving forward, we will always be raising funds to carry out essential maintenance to the outer fabric of this beautiful church. If you are able to help us to save this grade 1 listed building for the benefit of future generations then please make a donation no matter how small.
Astley Church has five church bells which hang in an oak frame dated 1607. Four of the bells are dated 1607 and the tenor bell was added in 1722. Following a visit and discussion with the Coventry Guild of Bellringers an inspection of the bells and fittings was carried out by John Taylor and Co. Bellfoundry in Loughborough in June 2021. The summary of the inspection as follows:
“The bells were restored and rehung on all new ringing fittings by our Company in 1912, and since that time very little if any professional attention has been needed in the intervening 109 years. The works to overhaul the clappers and roller boxes should be put in hand as soon as possible. The works to fit new gudgeons and ball bearings to the headstocks will place the installation into first class order for very many decades to come, and will greatly improve the running order of the bells. This work is highly recommended”
Restoration works completed by John Taylor and Co. Bellfoundry as follows:
CHURCH OF ST MARY THE VIRGIN, ASTLEY DIOCESE OF COVENTRY SPECIFICATION AND QUOTATION No.1.0 TO REHANG THE BELLS ON NEW GUDGEONS AND BALL BEARINGS
- Dismantling Bellhangers to travel to the church with tools and tackle, portable ‘A’ frames and temporary lifting beams.
- Lifting tackle to be rigged, and trapdoors below the bells opened up where possible.
- The bellropes, clappers, stays, sliders and wheels, to be removed from the bells and set aside.
- The bells to be systematically hoisted and placed on stout timbers bearers positioned across the base cills of the bellframe.
- Remove from each bell: the headstock, a sample bell bolt, the bellpad, the bearing housings and the wheel. Lower these parts to the ground floor. Close passageways throughout the tower. The removed parts to be loaded onto our transport vehicle and sent to our works. At the works The headstocks to be carefully sandblast cleaned. The existing gudgeons to be removed and the bosses coned out to receive new metric hot rivet fastened gudgeons. The new gudgeons to be fitted. The headstock bodies to be drilled and tapped to receive clapper adjusting “twiddle pins” to aid centration of the clappers. Provide for the new gudgeons, twin row, self-aligning metric ball bearings with taper lock sleeves, caps and dust seals. The bearings to be enclosed in purpose made cast iron housings of our own design, made to fit neatly onto the existing bearing beds and frame heads. Charge the bearings with lubricant and close the housings.
- The bell wheels to be sent for dipping and stripping to remove all old paint. Their shroudings to be reinforced with stainless steel screws fitted at regular intervals. Any damaged spoke ends to be repaired or scarfed. The wheels to be preservative dip treated. The bellpads to be cleaned down and preservative dip treated.
- New galvanised bell bolts and nuts and washers to be provided. New insulation washers to be provided.
- All necessary galvanised nuts, bolts, washers and other fixings to be provided for the bell fittings.
- All other timber parts to be dip treated with heavy duty preservative.
- The headstocks to be repainted with a zinc phosphate primer and durable enamel top coat of gloss paint.
- Return to site Bellhangers to travel to the church with the necessary tackle, tools, refurbished headstocks and other fittings.
- The headstocks to be hoisted into the belfry, placed in their pits, and the bells rehung. The remaining bell fittings to be installed and correctly adjusted. The bell ropes to be fitted.
- The temporary lifting beams to be removed and lowered to the ground floor. All debris, to be carted
- away for disposal. Any areas of paint work damaged during the work to be touched up. The
- bellframe corner cleats to be checked for tightness of fixings.
- The bells to be tried out by a competent band of ringers under our supervision before our bellhangers leave site to ensure that all
- is well with the installation.
- Approximately twelve months after completion of the project, our bellhangers to return to the church and carry out a full service of the installation.
The present-day cost of undertaking the above work would be £12,652.00 plus VAT.
The excellent restoration work was completed in January 2022 and thank you who gave the following donations:
- Coventry Guild of Bellringers Fund £6,500
- Warks and Coventry Historic Churches Trust £500
- All Churches Trust £2,000
- Private donations £445
- VAT claimed under Listed Places of Worship Scheme
The church organ was built in 1906 by Atterton and Sons in Leighton Buzzard.
Our church organ was restored in 2013 by F.W Burns and Son, Organ Builders in Nuneaton and the
organ is quoted to be a well-made instrument and typical of the work by Atterton and Sons.
The work needed to fully restore this instrument included:
- Thorough cleaning and dismantling of all the pipework from the Swell, Great and Pedal Organ.
- The Swell Box, Swell and Great Organ Soundboards, keyboards, pedalboard, all the mechanical tracker action, including all rollerboards, backfall lever beams, stickers, trackers and stop action. All removed to the workshop to receive
- The organ has an electric blower built by the British Organ Blowing Company of Derby. The electric blower was added to replace the hand-held wooden handle which is still in place and attached to the bellows. Restoration and attention also made to the electric blower and bellows.
Thank you to private donations and to the O.N Organ Fund who donated £3,000 towards the total
restoration costs of £11,988.00 to complete this project.