The visual language in our ancient buildings recreates a theatre of living history and a unique link to past endeavours. None incapsulates this more than the survival of Ranworth’s rood screen dating from the late 15th century. Having withstood the reforming zeal of Henry VIII, the wholesale destruction of images in churches under Edward VI and the puritanical iconoclasm of Oliver Cromwell in the 1640’s the screen, against all odds, remains intact.
Political and religious fervour are no longer a problem but in 2011 St.Helen’s church was faced with a need to ensure a stable environment to secure the long term preservation of the rood screen and all the art works. A recent report highlighted a problem in that, “the moisture within the fabric of the church had risen to a level that could pose an increased risk to the painted screen.”
In 2012 the community began an appeal to raise the required funds ro renew the lead covering on the nave roof, upgrade the rainwater disposal systems [gutters and downpipes] and renew the gullies and ground drainage.
In December 2014, with money raised from within the village, local charities and a substantial grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund of £155,000, we were able to begin the first stage of the works. This included all the preparatory investigations of environmental monitoring, inspection of drain runs using CCTV surveying, opening up the nave roof to determine condition of lead sheeting and roof timbers, architectural survey, archaeological survey, bat survey and the development of the specifications, drawings and schedule of operations for the second stage. [A condition survey of the rood screen had been undertaken by the Hamilton Kerr Institute in 2012].
The second stage of works began in March 2015, with all building and restoration completed by October 2015.
1811 - “It would take up too much space to quote all that has been so well collected, from ancient records, by Messrs. Morant and Le Strange but sufficient has been given to shew how a sad deterioration was allowed to go on inspite of protests, until the unworthy Restoration at the beginning of the nineteenth century took place, when the old roof “exceedingly rich in carving” was sold for £211 11s. 0d..” [Extract from Notices of Ranworth, 1903].
1898-1899 - “ During the year 1898, the Committee settled down to what the late Sir Francis Boileau called their ‘Herculean’ task, face to face with a huge outlay for the Nave roof. The Roof was begun in the Autumn, and by the following Easter it was finished at a total cost of £1,275 9s. 0d..” [Extract from Notices of Ranworth, 1903].
2013 - “ The rood screen is at risk from an increasing number of leaks in the nave roof, which was re-roofed in 1900. In the past 20 years, the Parish have carried out a succession of repairs to this roof, to remedy leaks ... Water ingress continues, posing a risk to the nave roof, and to the screen ... The building will be added to English Heritage’s published Heritage at Risk Register.” [Extract from English Heritage Report, July 2013].
2016 - Completion of the five year Ranworth Rood Screen Project and restoration of the nave roof. This was finished at a total cost of £276,000.