ST BARTHOLOMEW'S , TONG
Vision 2020 Achievements
Our vision for St Bartholomew’s Church, Tong
Tong is a unique, largely fifteenth century church, often called “The Westminster Abbey of the Midlands.” It was built on the site of a previous church so it can safely be said that the worship of Almighty God has taken place here for between 600 and 1000 years. Over the centuries the church has endured Reformation, Civil War, and more recently extreme weather and spates of vandalism. What stories the building could tell! What faithful people, saints and sinners, have bent the ear of Our Lord. “ If these stones could speak…”
Tong Twenty Twenty Vision is this generation’s opportunity to restore the church so that future generations will still be able to experience its splendours, enjoy its many impressive features and learn about its curious stories. Our vision for the year 2020 and beyond is that our church should not only be a place for inspiration, reflection and worship… but also a comfortable and welcoming place for people of all ages to visit, to come together in celebration, and to linger and listen.
We hope you enjoy your visit today! Please take a moment to view this exhibition which explains our development plans and the progress being made. If you would like to comment on the plans or show your support for securing St Bartholomew’s future, please write in our visitors’ book or contact me.
The Revd Preb Pippa Thorneycroft,
St Bartholomew’s Church, Tong
A major faith and fundraising effort
Tong Twenty Twenty Vision has a target to raise £1,000,000 in order to fund both urgent and essential restoration work, and to modernize facilities so that people of all ages and abilities can continue to enjoy this unique building.
In addition to the many private gifst and donations, both large and small, we are delighted to acknowledge the support received from the following.
➢ Allchurches Trust
➢ Arts Society Wrekin
➢ Edward Cadbury Charitable Trust
➢ Drapers’ Company
➢ P B Dumbell Trust
➢ WE Dunn Trust
➢ Headley Trust
➢ Ironmongers’ Company
➢ Beatrice Laing Charitable Trust
➢ The Leche Trust
➢ Leathersellers’ Company
➢ Diocese of Lichfield
➢ Listed Places of Worship Roof Fund
➢ Millichope Foundation
➢ Ratcliff Foundation
➢ Rowlands Trust
➢ Sharpe Trust
➢ South Shropshire Rural Development Fund
➢ Wolfson Foundation
➢ GJW Turner Trust
➢ Idlewild Trust
Tong 2020 Vision achievements in brief
Much has been achieved in the last four years (some examples are presented below). Although the full vision has yet to be realised, thanks to significant support from our funders we have successfully:
· secured the roofs and high level masonry
· given the weathercock a fresh gilding
· repaired the worst of the windows needing urgent conservation
· refurbished the vestry
· overhauled the organ, and
· safeguarded the 12th century ruins in the grounds and created a new access path
· expanded the range of heritage information leaflets and installed interpretation boards in the church grounds.
Vision 2020 - Milestone achievements (2016-2020)
The Great Bell
Tong’s Great Bell is the heaviest swung bell in Shropshire weighing 2,349 kgs. It needed a modern cast iron headstock to replace the timber headstock, repairs to the clapper assembly and the rope roller. Works in the bell chamber required the Bell to be lowered. The Bell became a casualty of the Covid pandemic, and remained locked down on the floor below the tower for over 3 months until it could be collected by the Bell Foundry. The Great Bell now has brand-new cast-iron headstock and all teh other bells have received a timely overhaul.
Tong’s ‘Golden Age’ Project
This project focussed on the Golden Chapel, South Porch and reordering the south aisle. Works involved high level masonry repairs, window conservation & cleaning, and some internal masonry repairs.
Also new additions – glazed access doors in the south porch and bespoke display and storage cabinets in the south aisle.
North Aisle reordering
In the north aisle where all the clutter used to be, there is a new beautiful array of cupboards to house all our paraphernalia which necessitated the moving of the alabaster tomb top of Humphrey Vernon and his wife Alice which will now be set in the floor at the entrance to the Golden Chapel. This project also impacted the organ blower box and the cleaning of the windows -so not a simple job!
Roofs and Rainwater Management
New roof coverings on north and south aisles. Lead has been replaced with terne-coated steel sheets to deter thieves. This particular part of the project was hard work and a significant achievement.
Blockages to below ground drains cleared. Guttering and downpipes have been repaired or replaced to reduce damp ingress.
Tower, spire and masonry works
High level stonework on the tower, spire and roofs has been secured and weather-proofed, corroded ironwork removed and replaced with stainless steel dowels. In addition to the the roof of the south porch having been repaired there is a new pinnacle there and another on the crenelations replacing one that fell off in Storm Ciara. Gargoyles have been replaced with all unstable pinnacles and parapets made safe. Defective mortar has been replaced with lime mortar in a multitude of locations. Access doors have been overhauled and belfry openings and bird guards renovated. The ventilation hoods have also been overhauled. Where parts of the stone mullions have sheared off (embedded corroded ironwork again) as in the chancel sections they have been replaced with new stone indents and new stainless-steel fixings.
Weathercock & tower clock
Our iconic golden cockerel weathervane was completely dismantled and overhauled, involving new ironwork and regilding with a new carved stone spire stone ball and steel filial fixing & reconnecting rod.
The tower clock had to be taken down for safekeeping.
A significant amount of work has been undertaken in order to make the vestry a useable space. The extent of the work required can possibly be imagined based upon the pictures opposite and below, which was taken during the renovation. Lime scree floor was removed, then replaced with damp proof hard-core. New scree was laid and floating wooden floor laid. Medieval cupboards raised and new vestry furniture installed. The new suspended breathable floor and storage units has transformed the cold damp vestry into a convenient meeting room and modern office fit for the 21st century together with a small kitchenette and energy efficient electric heaters. Secondary glazing has improved heat retention.
The most urgent repairs to window masonry and to the diamond leaded glazing have been addressed. Six windows were dismantled, repaired and cleaned at a specialist workshop, and reinstated. Others have been repaired on site.
Storage and display cabinets
Bespoke display cabinets have been installed to resolve problems with storage and clutter that detracted from the visual appearance of the church interior. They are in the south aisle either side of the main door – one side for ‘merchandise’ and publications and the contactless machine; the other side for photos of our treasures like the Tong cup and the touch screen for the films. At the same time the much used bookcase given in memory of Marie Courtney is now doing sterling work for the organist, full of all our service booklets and music.
Church treasures and artifacts
The Elizabethan embroidered pulpit fall has been extensively cleaned and given a new backing to preserve its shape, and a new display case commissioned so that it can hang permanently within the main body of the church – possibly for the first time in its 400 year existence! A new booklet was produced telling the story behind its Tudor period origins.
The Civil War cannon ball has been placed in public view for the first time within a purpose-built glass box in the new south aisle heritage display cabinet.
Conservation and repair works were completed to a number of different monuments. The Coade stone coat of arms has been professionally cleaned (as have Humphrey and Alice) and the sandstone relief of Tong Castle in its 18th century hay-day has been secured against the wall of the south porch, having sat on the floor for the past 40 years. We are pleased that all this work has been undertaken and have nothing but praise for the contractors, Treasure and Son of Ludlow.
Our Grade 2 listed organ built by J W Walker in 1877 was overdue for restoration, having become ‘wheezy’ from accumulated dust and bird droppings! A thorough overhaul has been completed, replacing worn parts, making adjustments to improve the mechanical action, and cleaning all 410 pipes and even the clappers.
External features and stonework
In addition to some considerable repair work carried out on external stonework we have provided a new pedestrian gate off the lane and access paths and steps have opened up the approach to the medieval Tong College hospice ruins.
Information and Interpretation
We are providing new materials, leaflets and panels to help our visitors appreciate the church’s mission and heritage has been a central part of fulfilling our vision for the year 2020. New fixed external information boards were designed and installed, together with a series of internal boards highlighting special features and telling aspects of the Story of Tong.
Four short videos have been compiled setting the scene for visitors, available on the touch screen in church and on YouTube and soon via QR from your smart phone. A fifth film is in production. The narrator is Simon Bates who grew up opposite the church and has spent his life in Radio.
Would you like to support us?
The Tong Vision for 2020 and beyond has a target to raise £500,000 over the next 3 years in order to fund urgent and essential restoration work, and to ensure that all visitors and congregations can continue to enjoy this unique building! If you can offer your support either financially, in-kind or otherwise, please contact Revd Pippa Thorneycroft.
You can find us on Facebook: Tong Church
For Just Giving links, please see below.