St Mary’s Church, Clophill, Bedfordshire

A simple ruin has become a focus for events and communities demonstrating how patience, imagination and partnerships can help find solutions for long-term Heritage at Risk cases. Taking an innovative approach, the building of ‘eco-lodges’ next to the site has provided both an income stream and a warden preventing the anti-social behaviour that used to plague the site.

Where: Clophill, Bedfordshire

Years on register: 1998 - 2014

View of roofless church showing graffiti and damage.
View of roofless church showing graffiti and damage. The scheduled church had been a focus for anti-social behaviour for many years. © Historic England DSCN8282

An abandoned and vulnerable site

The Church of St Mary the Virgin in Clophill, Bedfordshire was listed in 1961 at Grade II* and also as a scheduled monument. The church foundation is believed to date from the 10th century and it was probably re-built around 1350. The large perpendicular windows were added into the nave around 1450.

Improvements were made in the early 19th century, with a west gallery added in 1814 and a new east end to the chancel in 1819. In the 1840s a new church was built in the centre of the village to accommodate a growing population and the old church was abandoned. In the mid-20th century the lead was stolen from the roof and the church subsequently fell into ruin.

Interior view of roofless church showing damage and graffiti.
Interior view of roofless church showing damage and graffiti. The presence of on-site wardens now prevents a return of anti-social behaviour. © Historic England DSCN8312

How we made a difference

Over the years it became a focal point for vandalism, anti-social behaviour and graffiti. Historic England worked closely with the Clophill Heritage Trust providing legal advice, officer support, improving community relations and working with police and heritage crime officers to resolve these problems. In addition we grant aided the stabilisation of the ruins, the conservation of the spiral stair and the installation of the viewing platform. This fed into a wider project by the Clophill Heritage Trust which saw the erection of eco-lodges which helps support a sustainable future for the site as a whole and the provision of a warden which provides a constant presence on site.

Stainless steel spiral staircase leading to the tower viewing platform.
Stainless steel spiral staircase leading to the tower viewing platform. © Historic England DP165108

Community focus and innovation

The Clophill Heritage Trust continues to develop and deliver new initiatives and events at the site. The latest project to conserve and protect cleared gravestones and the churchyard wall has resulted in a Poetry and Peace Path, which will open on Remembrance Sunday, 11 November, this year - the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day 1918.

The path involves young people from the area in creating poems about Greensand Country. An annual Peace Poetry competition for the local school will ensure that the act of Remembrance continues year on year.

This year the Trust’s founder Ali Bradbury was awarded a British Empire Medal for her work in raising £1.5 million pounds, which has allowed the trust to consolidate the monument with its beautiful viewing tower and enchanting space and views.

See the Church of St Mary the Virgin on the National Heritage List

 

View of church interior with conserved wall tops and restored pathway, areas of turf and glimpse of tower platform.
View of church interior with conserved wall tops and restored pathway, areas of turf and glimpse of tower platform. The interior space is used for displays and events © Historic England DP165093

Visit

Events and activities at Clophill Eco Lodges run throughout the year.

Find things to do at Clophill

Get involved

Friends' donations play a vital part in enabling the trust to continue their work to preserve, improve and encourage the appreciation of the ancient monument of St Mary’s Old Church, as well as the youth support and education provided by the trust.

Join the Friends of Clophill Heritage Trust

20 years of the Heritage at Risk Register

This year we are celebrating 20 years of the Heritage at Risk Register, Historic England’s tool for shining a light on the listed buildings and places in England that need most help. Looking back over the last 20 years, huge progress has been made in saving our heritage and giving it new uses.

See more of our top 20 heritage rescues

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