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22 September 2017Holy Cross Church, Caston wins vital National Lottery funding support to save Thatched Church

Following an architectural survey of the Church, it was identified that the thatched roof required urgent attention as soon as possible to prevent potential water damage. A Master Thatcher then undertook a detailed inspection which confirmed that the entire existing thatch had reached the end of its useful life. Consequently, Caston Parochial Church Council (PCC) immediately recognised that very significant funding was required and so approached the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for financial support for the re-thatching and growing of the church.

Last year, thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the HLF provided initial funding of £29,500 to help Caston PCC progress their plans to apply for a full grant at a later date. This enabled the PCC to appoint a specialist architect and to perform a wide number of surveys and inspections to assess the full extent of the works needed, costs involved and proposed timetable. This work was completed in accordance with the agreed timescale and allowed the PCC to submit a much larger bid to HLF to complete all the necessary works.

Caston PCC are delighted to announce that the HLF have awarded a further National Lottery grant of £220,500 (thus a total for both stages of the project of £250,000) which means that the re-thatching of the Church with Norfolk reed will occur during 2018 thus securing the Church for future generations.

Holy Cross Church is a Grade 1 listed building situated within a conservation area, on the edge of the village green and is built of flint with stone quoins (blocks) and dressings. The earliest mention of a Church in Caston is in a document of 1218, but it is likely that there was one on this site earlier. It is one of only two thatched churches remaining in the Breckland area of Norfolk.

Graham Penfold, a Churchwarden of the PCC said: “We are absolutely delighted and thrilled to learn that the HLF has given us this amazing level of support. Our much loved thatched Church is one of the main focuses within the village and as stewards; we are keen to leave the fabric in the best possible state for future generations to enjoy. Without this very generous funding made possible by National Lottery players, there was a very real and high risk of water damage to the interior which will now be prevented. For the first time ever, it will also allow for a mains water supply, the provision of a kitchenette and facilitate a wide range of community projects including involving the children of CofE Caston School in thatching lessons, the creation of the first children’s guide to the Church and the design of a prayer centre for the community.”

Explaining the importance of the HLF support, Robyn Llewellyn, Head of HLF East of England said, “We’re delighted to be able to continue our support for the restoration of Holy Cross Church and help to secure this important local building for future generations. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the Church will be able to carry out urgent repairs to its roof and share its heritage with a wider audience.”

02 July 2017Village Hall Refurbishment

Village Hall Update

Situation Report
Initially the plan was to build a new hall and plans were drawn up for that with an estimate of £250K+ at that time.  We were then advised that no grants would be considered until after the London Olympic Games in 2012.  Subsequent to that the hall committee submitted a detailed application which took a lot of work to produce.  This was turned down on several criteria but the one that could not be overcome was that our community was deemed to be too small for the amount required.

It was then decided that a progressive upgrade should be considered but after the refurbishment of the car park for which we had secures a 100% grant was vetoed by Breckland Planning it was decided to produce the specification and drawings for an extensive refurbishment with a new store room, porch, toilets and kitchen plus exterior improvements.  An open village meeting was held where the plans could be viewed and the drawings were displayed on the wall of the hall (above where the tables are stored) for one year.  Progress reports were published at regular intervals in the Waylander regarding the plans as well as the progress in fund raising.  Much work has been done in coordinating with architects, Breckland Planning Department and in seeking and evaluating builder’s quotations.  It soon became apparent that if any progress was to be made then the work would have to be done in stages.  The planning permission for the alterations and upgrade expires in February 2018 so we are keen to ensure that at least the footings of the new part of the structure are laid before then in order to secure the planning approval ad infinitum.  In the meantime, we have had the hall structure surveyed by a firm of professional building surveyors which concluded that the main part of the hall is in reasonable order for the next few years though some maintenance work may be required.

The roof which was of asbestos tiling was replaced about six years ago. However, the lean-to part of the structure has asbestos cement roofing material and parts of the wall structure is rotten.  You may recall that we had to replace the kitchen walls in a hurry about two years ago and the structure behind had to be temporarily strengthened with fiberglass injections.  The floor joists under the ladies’ toilet and kitchen have extensive rot similar to that found under the main hall floor a few years ago hence the recently renewed floor in that area.
You need to remember that the hall, a timber framed and clad building, was built in 1928 without proper foundation and has done well to survive the 90 years or so since then with occasional upgrading (the ceiling, the lighting, the roof, the exterior cladding, etc).  It was originally built on land donated by three Caston residents and was built in timber for £300.  A supervisory and administrative trust was set up by the owners.  Upgrade work was done in 1955, 1982 and 1997.  Work has to be done now to secure its continued future. The hall trust was changed to a charitable trust at the end of 2015 overseen by the Charity Commission.  This enabled the committee to apply for grants that were otherwise unavailable to the hall.

Caston Village Hall Trust trustees and committee are now approaching the point when they are close to appointing a contractor for the repair and upgrade of the village hall.  The project is expected to cost circa £84,000 dependent on how much of the contingency budget is used and will last about 12 to 14 weeks subject to weather.  We have close to £80,000 towards the estimated cost which includes funding support from the Parish Council and a £20,000 grant from Norfolk Community Foundation.  Some further fund raising may therefore still be required.

The work which is anticipated to commence shortly* involves the demolition of the lean-to area which houses the toilets and kitchen and then building a new end to the hall at the car park entrance end and extending the existing main hall roof.  This requires new foundations.  Also a new porch and access will be built to the front providing user friendly and disabled access.  A new kitchen and new toilets for gentlemen, ladies and disabled with modern fittings will be provided which will be housed in the new extension.  The new area will have improved insulation.  The hall will be out of service while the work takes place.

The work involving the toilets and kitchen has been made necessary because the existing wooden wall structure and frame flooring under the kitchen and the ladies toilet is badly rotted and in need of attention.

This is the first phase of the planned upgrade of the hall which will eventually provide a new storeroom and improved exterior together with a resurfaced car park.  The rest of the upgrade will be undertaken in future when funds permit.  It is estimated that could be in the order of a further £100,000.  However, the hall would likely still be usable whilst these further works take place.

Should parishioners require further information or have queries regarding the village hall please contact one of the trustees or committee members. Alternatively email: or phone 01953 488495
* Discussions with the builder are still in hand regarding the actual start date which can be no later than January 2018. 
David Blincow

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