What's happening with St Helen's Heritage Project?
St Helen’s Heritage Project has got off to an excellent start.
The Heritage Lottery Fund awarded a grant of £604.800 to St Helen’s Church to help fund a three-year programme of heritage activities and to create a Heritage Centre alongside the existing St Helen’s Cottage. The new build already has a roof and we can now see definitions of rooms appearing. For a project that first began some six years ago, this is a welcome sight.
The programme aims to show the heritage not only of the historic church building, but also of the site and how it links in with the Castle, the original Boys Grammar School and the wider town of Ashby-de-la-Zouch.
With a tower built by Lord Hastings in 1474, the building stands on what is thought to have been an existing church that was alluded to in the Domesday Book. The church was extended in the 1800s to provide for the growing number of worshippers and this has given us the shape we have today. The bell tower is furnished with 10 bells.
An archaeological dig, undertaken before the Heritage Centre could commence, has revealed that it will stand on what was the site of a medieval vicarage. Also discovered were the remains of a causeway, civil war trenches and the remains of a tithe barn. Smaller finds tell us of the activities taking place on the site, the kind of food eaten and the links the church has with Lilleshall Abbey.
All of this information will be documented and available for visitors to see in the summer of 2017. We are now working with an interpretation company to better interpret the artefacts and monuments we have and to show our archaeological finds going back to the Stone Age.
We are presently training tour guides and welcomers and creating activities for adults and children to take part in. We are looking forward to groups booking guided tours, uniformed and other younger people’s groups and school parties visiting to take part in heritage activities. We will visit groups and schools to share lots of information, deliver presentations and bring activities with us.
Our Heritage Centre will have rooms for hire, a state of the art kitchen and outside facilities to enjoy our garden. There will be displays showing the finds from under the building and items that are currently not on show in the church. We will run craft courses for adults that relate to items in the church such as stone carving, stained glass making, calligraphy, candle making etc.
We are creating a programme of events to share with you the heritage of a corner of this market town. The church is always open between 9.00 and 5.00pm so please drop in and see what we are doing. If you would like to be part of this project as a volunteer (we are currently seeking researchers and cataloguers for our finds), please get in touch with the Heritage Officer on 07435 564 236 to learn about the opportunities available.