The Restoration Story

Where it all Began


The lead up to this ground-breaking Trust was the issue of the 1979 Quinquennial Report by the church architect Brian Austin. The content of that document was, to say the least, a devastating list of priority works, which, if not taken on board immediately would result in Northampton’s oldest standing building and grade 1 listed national treasure being reduced to ruins within 25 years. The assessment in cost to undertake this task was variable between £750,000 and £1 million pounds depending on all going smoothly and contained in a five year programme. This was not to be as is revealed later.

Holy Sepulchre PCC (Parochial Church Council) was stunned thus the rope barriers and danger signs were quickly erected as gradually more and more bits and pieces of this ancient building dislodged and fell to the ground.

Enter the debate within the PCC as to how this chronic situation could be resolved. Many meetings took place with as many PCC members believing that the church could raise the sums needed as there were who, with something of a business head, realised that this was a situation far and away beyond the ability of the council to attract funds. The arguments continued for a year without any clear way forward. At this time, the late Canon Howard Tibbs, Vicar and churchwarden John Kightley opted to take the matter into their own hands and it fell in a most opportunistic way that Simon Tebbutt was about to close down Northampton’s Civic Society. The outcome was that Simon agreed to join the fight to save the historic and world famous town centre building. It was suggested that a trust be formed, completely separate from the church as the vehicle to collate the needed finance, the basis of which was that from experience we were told that trusts and foundations would be much more approachable for funds for heritage restoration. Eventually the PCC agreed to this option with reservations.

History shows that the trust was formed and became a ground-breaking organisation in the Church of England with other Cathedrals, Minsters and Churches soon following suit.

The five years that was envisaged for raising the funds to restore Holy Sepulchre Church was stretched beyond our wildest expectations…in fact it has taken 27 long fund-raising years to reach the completion of all five major phases of work in year 2010.

To learn more of the problems and issues that faced the trustees, please read on.


Prior to the trust deed being registered and restoration work commencing, a board of trustees was formed. It became the task of those dedicated volunteers to formulate how the trust could raise sufficient funds to kick-start the finances. Along with Hon. Treasurer Tony Cooper and ex-officio churchwardens it was decided to engage professional fund raisers, The Wells Organisation, to target various trusts and foundations. The cost to provide initial background work was a staggering £25,000, a lot of money back in 1981/2. However, Wells had raised the £25,000 within 2 weeks so that the trust could be sure of meeting the fee…also a temporary trust officer Simon Brown was appointed by Wells and he proved to be an extraordinary fund raiser and after 6 months left the trust to it’s own devices and progressing cautiously but with funds in hand.

As the terms of the trust deed were being formulated, various fund-raising groups were encouraged to back up the efforts of newly appointed Trust Officer Flt. Lt Peter Newhouse DFC. A Professional Ladies Group took to the road “borrowing” the county stately homes for events with starring personnel to talk or entertain. The Simpson Barracks (home of The Royal Pioneer Corps) was the base of all trust meetings for many years with additional sponsored evenings in the Officers’ Mess for exquisite dining and networking. In addition a “Congregation Group” was established to show all that the church was prepared to do it’s bit to help. Set a target of £12,500 this group has raised through it’s own efforts and a small number of legacies the enormous sum of over £644.000 (as at September 2016) and is still striving to increase it’s input.

However, the buildings work did not go as smoothly as expected. Estimates after all are only estimates. The tower and spire cost £26,000 more than originally thought would be needed. The roof cost an extra £30,000, the rot detected in the original north wall of the centre nave needed £38,000 that was not planned for and the enormous outbreak of wet and dry rot in the south aisle floor set the trust back £26,000. Fortunately, English Heritage gave grants totalling around £350,000 over the restoration period, without which completion would have extended considerably. To share in the story of how the trust Congregation Fund Raising Group contributed click on to ‘Looking Back’.

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