The Heat Is on for Church Upgrade; Ross Reyburn Visits Clifton Campville, a Village with One of the Finest Parish Churches in England
Reyburn, Ross, The Birmingham Post (England)
"Clifton Campville is one of the great parish churches of England; yet who outside Staffordshire has heard of it? What book of architecture breathes its name?"
The heavy praise comes comes Henry Thorold's Shell Guide to Staffordshire (1978) and happily today this striking rural landmark neatly located on a hillside in the Mease Valley has been successfully restored.
"Someone has described it as the finest medieval church in Staffordshire and one of the finest in England - I would agree with that," says the Rev Alan Wheale, rector of the Mease Valley Parishes.
The church has one of the highest parish church spires in England reaching 201ft. Insurance cover met the restoration costs after it was hit by lightning then later partially demolished by gale force winds in 1984.
Then in 1996, the church received an 80 per cent England Heritage grant to finance most of the current pounds 86,000 general restoration scheme.
"Once the restoration is finished by the end of this year, the structure of the church will be very, very good indeed," says retired head teacher John McDermott, restoration committee secretary.
"We are all right steeple-wise, and structure-wise. The problem for the next century is making the church usable in terms of heating and facilities. It is a medieval inside as well as out."
St Andrew's Church is heated by an ugly great antiquated industrial oil heater offering a blot on the serene interior of this magnificent church as well as damaging the church fabric. The trouble is a new heating system will cost an estimated pounds 25,0 00 to pounds 30,000. But this money is worth finding for the church interior, surprisingly light as the church windows have plain glass, is so impressive.
The village has a successful Church of England primary school built in the late 1960s and the lay ministry team, formalised when Mr Wheale came to the village two years ago, shows how the church is adapting to the shortage of clergy and smaller congregat ions.
"I have six parishes and seven churches in three counties," says Mr Wheale. "The local ministry team works very well. The family services started here in January and they take responsibility for those. They are very popular - it is really very encouragin g. We are getting 30 people now. These are people who didn't really come to church before." Mr McDermott is continuing his work as a lay member of the team although he is moving with his wife Fay, a member of the church choir, to a smaller home in Tamwor th five miles away.
"It is working very well," he says. "What is pleasant about the Mease Valley is that there is a very good corporate feeling amongst the church communities. The choir goes from church to church."
The church spire has been described as the third highest parish church spire in the country but no one seems able to give it a definite ranking.
"I understand it is the highest church spire in the country - there are bigger spires but they aren't on hills. What I would like to know is how did they get a spire that high in 1376 - it is incredible. …