St Swithun’s Church, Long Bennington, held a special community service recently to mark the re-opening of the church after six months’ of repair and restoration work. Bishop Nicholas shared in the celebrations as the guest of honour.
The restoration work could not have been completed without the financial support from a number of organisations including The Heritage Lottery Fund; The Marshall Trust; The Garfield Weston Foundation; The Lincolnshire Churches Trust; InvestSK; the Duchy of Lancaster together with donations from the local community.
The service was very well attended and everyone enjoyed the performances by the village school choir, the Church Music Group and Orston Rocks, a neighbouring village choir.
A church in Long Bennington was mentioned in the Domesday Book, which was completed in 1086. The current church has stood on the site since about 1175; the chancel of which is thought to have been used by the Cistercian Priory, whose existence is recorded in 1150. It is a Grade 1 listed building.
The years have taken its toll on the building and the quinquennial review highlighted several structural issues including cracks in the walls and problems with the Cross Beams due to an infestation of Death Watch Beetle. Most recently a leak had developed in two parts of the roof. Due to the scale of the problems the church closed in February and services were moved to the Village Hall or were held jointly with the Methodist Church or with other churches in the Saxonwell Group. The church reopened for the Harvest Festival in October.
The church already has a busy outreach programme, with, among others, a walking group; tea-n-chat events once a month and two Home Groups. A new Children’s Service will start after Christmas. Their community work is being expanded as part of the Heritage Lottery Grant Award. This funding will facilitate an ambitious new programme of activities including concerts and talks; a series of guides to the church covering the war graves, God’s Acre and thecreation of Village History Trails for both children and adults.
Harriet Orridge, Vicar at St Swithun’s in Long Bennington said: “This has been a very busy and challenging time for the St Swithuns’ community’) and we are all thankful that the building work is now finished and we have our church back. The community service was a great success and we were delighted that Bishop Nicholas could join us on this happy occasion.
“We are very excited about the future and our plan for more outreach work and getting involved with our community. We are particularly pleased with our Heritage Trail, a joint project with the Long Bennington History Society which has been a great success. We wanted to stir up interest in the village and its history and its really helped to do that amongst people of all ages.”