ludham archive

     Repairing the Church Tower 2007

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                  Interesting stuff

St Catherine's Church is a wonderful old building, but as you might expect, it does need a few repairs from time to time. It was built in the 14th Century, and each generation of Ludham residents has done their bit to keep it standing. It is inconceivable that the current generation is going to let it fall down.

So, over the last 5 years,  a quarter of a million pounds has had to be spent on the church. A massive burden on a village of just 1300 inhabitants. this could not have been done without the support of grants from English Heritage and a massive fund raising effort by local people.

That's not the end of it either. The work is far from complete, but we are getting there. This is the story of the latest phase of the work which concentrated on the tower and on the side windows. There are some great photographs and some interesting stories to go with them. we hope you enjoy them.


It is the summer of 2007. The tower is covered in £20,000 of scaffolding and the side windows are boarded up. Work is underway.

Butress before

The church is built from flints held together with lime mortar. The picture above shows what happens if you pull on a loose bit. Half the buttress collapses. To the right, you see the same buttress after being rebuilt.
Butress after


In some places, new stone was needed. While this one was being fitted to the string course, a hole appeared in the stone work. These loosely filled holes were left by the builders of the tower. It was where their wooden scaffolding was fitted.


The battlements at the top of the tower are ornamental, but they still needed extensive pointing and some new stone work fitting.


The view from the tower is stunning

dont look down

It's high too. Don't look down.


The spiral staircase inside the tower is not often seen. It was too dangerous for visitors in the past. Now it even has it's own lights.


One of the reasons that the tower was in such poor shape was water running down it. Now it has these extra long spouts to throw the water clear. the ground at the bottom has been contoured so that water now runs away from the building. It might, at last, start to dry out.


These two chunks of wood were in fact one oak beam which has rotted through in the middle. The break was immediately below the flag pole and had seriously weakened the structure of the roof. A dendro chronology test was done on the beam to see how old it was. The test was compulsory as part of the work on this old building. It cost £500 and did not produce any date.


So, these new beams had to be lifted up onto the roof. They are heavy chunks of oak, so how do you get them up there?


This is how it was done. Probably the same way that it was done when the tower was built.

The beam is hoisted up to the top of the tower ready for insertion under the roof structure and flag pole. the new beam is made up in four parts bolted together.

temporary roof

A temporary roof was fitted over the tower while the work was carried out. Here you see the new stainless steel support for the flagpole which is bolted through the roof onto the new beam.

lead work

The old lead from the roof was taken away and re-cast. It was then returned and replaced. Fitting the lead is a skilled job. Here you see the joint between sheets being bent over to seal the water out.

clock mechanism

The clock was bought second hand about 150 years ago. This photograph shows the place where the clock mechanism is fitted. The red part is the back of the face with the hole for the hands clearly visible. Above it is a hole which allows light into the clock cupboard. It has been suggested that this hole would be ideal for a cuckoo, a view not shared by the church wardens. The clock mechanism was away in Norwich for repair.


the clock face has been re-painted and re-gilded in it's original colours. The panel is made of wood. The wheel designs in the corner reflect the fact that St Catherine was martyred on a wheel.


The stone work in the side window mullions was very badly decayed. Perhaps a legacy of a previous repair. Here we see the stone mason cutting the outside of each mullion away. He then glued new stone to the old mullion to produce a brand new support for the glass.


The restored mullions are replaced.


The glass was sent to Norwich to be cleaned and fitted back into new lead. Each panel is fitted to the glazing bars with copper wires.

The completed window. The stone work still looks a bit new, but it will soon weather and blend in.


The finished result. Well almost. You will notice that the clock has no hands. This is because we still had to raise £4000 to have the clock mechanism overhauled and put back.
However, in 2008, the money was indeed raised and the clock hands were put back completing the job for now.

fitting clock hands

Fitting clock hands

Here is the clock mechanism, restored and back in place.


There is still a lot more work to do. If you would like to make a contribution to help restore this fantastic old church, then you can send it to:

Ken Grapes
The Limes, Norwich Road,
NR29 5QA

Cheques payable to St Catherine's Church PCC.

Don't forget, St Catherine's is open every day for visitors. Come and see the work for yourself.

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