Dedicated volunteers win award for church restoration

Church warden Brian Cooke
Church warden Brian Cooke

Volunteers who saved their church from ruin after arson and lead thefts have been awarded the English Heritage Angel Awards for their hard work and dedication.

It has cost around £1.25 million to put right the damage and carry out repairs to the stonework at All Saints’ church in Leamington Hastings.

And sterling work by volunteers and former church warden Brian Cooke, who was project manager, has seen the 13th century church brought back to full glory.

Mr Cooke, who has lived in the village for 35 years, said they felt “very honoured and grateful” after receiving the award for the “best rescue or repair of a historic place of worship”.

He said: “This has been more or less a full-time job for seven years. The Rev Jane Close, priest-in-charge, has been a huge support to the project. The whole of the parochial church council has been very supportive and without their trust I would not have been able to do this work.”

In November 2009 the church was badly damaged in an arson attack and in August 2013, with the last part of the restoration just completed, lead was stolen on two separate occasions from the roof, causing further extensive damage after heavy rain.

Mr Cooke said: “The generosity of people, not just villagers or churchgoers, has been amazing. It was a huge amount of effort by many.”