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Be a part of history by helping to fund a unique 13th century Church Restoration

Help restore a 13th.Logo
We need your help. We have been restoring the roof of our old parish church, in the picturesque village of Whitestone in Devon. When we removed the old roof we found something unique and rather special - but we need your help to finish the job.

Help fund a 13th century Church Restoration

When the old roof was removed, earlier this year, we found that the Victorians had simply banged their new roof on top of the old roof. The architects and archaeologists who looked at the previously hidden roof discovered that it is really old.

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that we now have to restore and preserve this wonderful old roof which will cost more than we originally envisaged.

We need to raise £60,000 to save this very special roof. Will you please help us?

All those donating can, if they wish, have their names written on one of the slates as they go back onto the roof of this beautiful old building. It will mean that your name, and also if you wish those of your loved ones, will end up recorded on the roof of the church for another 800 years.

By clicking on the ‘donate’ button you will be taken to a page where you can enable us to reclaim tax under Gift Aid which, if everyone were to donate on this basis, would mean our target falls to nearer £48,000. From the Gift Aid page you can also leave the names of those you would like written on a slate.

Please give as generously as you are able and help us look after a wonderful piece of our heritage for future generations.

Thank you.

Background to the Discovery

When the Victorian roof was removed, we found that the nails that hold the slates to the roof had come to the end of their lives and are crumbling to dust. The real concern was that, in high winds, one slate slipping would set other slates off like dominos and a large part of the roof would end up in the churchyard.

The slates have now been removed and we can see the roof structure which has been hidden away for literally hundreds of years. We discovered a lot of decay but also that the roof structure is really much older than previously thought.

The initial archaeological report suggests that the roof is of a type called a ‘medieval wagon roof’ from the 13th or 14th century – around the time of King Henry III or Edward I. There are only THREE other church roofs known to exist from this time and style.

Subsequent roofing was laid over the earlier structure and we can see the markings of the old wooden shingles that would have covered the roof before slates were used instead. There are even some wooden shingles left behind in the roof void.

St Catherine’s Whitestone is at the top of a hill and very exposed. That helps explain why, when the roof was constructed, it was deliberately over-engineered to make sure it stayed in place. So, despite the decay, there is still plenty of good wood to work with although a lot of timber work will still be needed.

The other unusual feature is that sarking boards (like floorboards on joists) were used to tie the roof truss together to make a much stronger roof. The sarking boards show how successive phases of wooden shingles were used to cover the church roof.  That is how we came to have seven hundred years of history under one roof!

About St Catherine’s Church

St. Catherine's has served the local community for some 750 years. It is Grade 1 Listed, but even more importantly its original roof was built using a design called barrel vault which puts it in some exceptionally distinguished company – including Hadrian’s Villa in Italy, the Sistine Chapel, and Palace of Ardeshir in Iran. As a recent discovery it is thought that the relative isolation of its position, around 4 miles to the west of Exeter, led to this aspect of an architectural gem remaining hidden for almost eight centuries.

The first recorded rector of the church, Andrew de Powderham (the castle of the same name is 11 miles way), dates back to 1260. The Church has numerous other important historical details; there is pre-Reformation stained glass, depicting the Virgin Crowned and Christ Child. The namesake, St. Catherine of Alexandria, is rare for English churches and normally reserved for churches on high hills, such as the great ancient monastery in Sinai. This small parish church in rural Devon is immensely valuable as both local history and to the various generations who laboured to maintain its presence.

In addition to having up to five individuals named on tiles, donors can have their names kept in a register held at the Church. Donors will also be invited to a service for the commissioning of the roof, and an open day to view the end result.

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Comments section

Jeremy I am pleased to support this project in a nidest way, and I send my good wishes to rector Martin and to Laura.

Alison Heard about the Rambling Rev and the medieval roof uncovered during repairs. Happy to help and best of luck.

Mrs S Best of luck with your fundraising - God bless you all.

Carol Wonderful project, wishing you every success.

Linda What a story! We must preserve this wonderful ancient building

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Gary, Orpington

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