Tower Restoration Appeal

St Mary’s Cavendish

The Building Needs

Picture of bent weather vane shaft on top of tower

Condemned weather vane shaft.

The main body of the church had a new roof about 10 years ago with major support from English Heritage and is in good condition. However the 700 year old Tower, is in serious need of attention, both externally and internally, except for the Lower Room which was refurbished in the last five years to house the WW1 Crosses. In particular the upper part of the Tower supports a Bellcote with a 2 cwt bell of 1797 vintage and an elevated weather vane, all the wooden parts of which are seriously rotten and in need of urgent restoration work, for safety and aesthetic reasons. This is an iconic feature of the village, which it would be sad to loose, but that is now a very real possibility which we are trying to avoid and seek your help.

Areas of the church yard including the public footpath near the main church entrance and parts of the inside rear of the church have very recently had to be closed off for health and safety reasons, under the guidance of the Architect and Insurer, until there is the money to carry out the proposed work or a cut down version.

To take the Bellcote and Weathervane down seems to require scaffolding from the ground. Other approaches have been examined in detail and hitherto ruled out by the Diosesan Architect or the firms concerned. He has obtained 4 full quotations to his specification. These include other priority items that need the scaffolding for most efficient use of that and are mentioned in outline below.

Failing bricks and stone around rotting louvre, clock face needing restoring and door frame needing repair.

The East and West outside walls of the tower are in particular need of restoration, to repair the wooden & stone surrounded light openings. All the louvres in the Belfry need replacing. Most rain water runs need attention as does loose stone. The clock faces need restoration.

Internal items, not dependent on external scaffolding are the Staircase and Bell Ringers’ Chamber which have serious cracks and the latter also needs re-plastering.

The cost of the proposed restoration is in the region of £105K for which we hope to recover about £12K of VAT. The church currently has funds including offers from several charities for c. £25K. Without substantial help the upper tower items will have to be removed indefinitely.

There are some further charities we can appeal to but all seem to require most of the costs to be found elsewhere. We are therefore appealing to friends of the Church and the locality for help in retaining this beautiful building with its current appearance for our own and future generations. We hope that many will want to contribute to this restoration even if they do not regularly attend, and be able to use Gift Aid to increase their donations by about 25%. There is a separate sheet (click here) that explains how donations can be made.

The Village

Views across The Green

Cavendish is a village of about 1200 persons. It has a small shop run by volunteers, an excellent C of E sponsored primary school, two pubs, a restaurant, a Memorial Hall and the Parish Church of St. Mary’s. It is perhaps best known for the world famous view across the Green towards the pink cottages with the Church in the background. The village has gone from being predominantly agricultural, to residential with employment in major nearby towns, significant self-employment and a high retirement population, although there is a very good community spirit, significantly helped by the Church.

There are several active organizations including the Horticultural, the Historical and the Stour Astronomical Societies and the Theatre Club. The Community & Parish Councils are well integrated and the Bowls, Football and Cricket Clubs are very active in season.

The Church

Bellcote rotting support.

St Mary’s is a beautiful Grade I listed church, with a fascinating history. It dates from the 13th – 15th Centuries. It is open daily for visitors and about 5000 are estimated to have visited last year. However, the cost of maintenance of this iconic building, which is insured for nearly £9M is increasingly difficult for its regular parishioners. Your help is currently sought with the Upper Tower restoration problems, summarized in the “Building Needs” section of this brochure. A recent project was the refurbishment of the Lower Tower Room, which has enabled a high quality display of the collection of 13 wooden crosses which were the original grave markers of villagers who died in Flanders and France in WW1.

West wall needing repairs with rotting timbers throughout and failed water run.

The Church is well described in Munro Cautley’s 1950s book on Suffolk Churches, and merits an entry in Simon Jenkins “1000 Best Churches”. Sir John de Cavendish, who was the Chief Justice of the King’s Bench in 1372, and executed in connection with the death of Watt Tyler, the leader of the Peasants’ Revolt, left money for the Church Chancel to be built. He was a key ancestor of the Cavendish and the Devonshire dynasties. There is a 16th century memorial stone, thought to commemorate William Cavendish, citizen of London, who died in 1423 and the tomb of a former High Sherriff of Suffolk, Sir George Colt who died in 1540. More recently the lives of Sue Ryder and her husband Leonard Cheshire VC who lived in the village and established major charities are commemorated in the Church.

The Congregation and the Parish


The Parish is part of the Stour Valley Benefice. Services are held most Sundays and thirty to forty parishioners and visitors usually attend. In addition the Village School uses the Church for six or seven services a year with parents and friends, when it is full. There are typically 4 marriages and 10 funerals a year.

Other Activities
There are usually two major concerts in the church each year with capacity attendance encouraged by the excellent acoustics. The church & tower are used in both the Village and the Church Fetes, and by the Illuminators at Christmas. The flower arrangers display regularly and there are various smaller functions. The Parish participates in the annual Suffolk Historic Churches Trust’s “Bike Ride” and the Church has benefitted from this in both the earlier Lower Tower Project and in undertakings to help in the present project. In the last eighteen months a group of trainee Bell Ringers from the village, have been meeting to establish a new team under the guidance of the St Gregory’s Sudbury – A Team, and typically 14 participate in this. There is a kitchen and a toilet.


Click here to see how to donate to this appeal.