A major rebuild and restoration project at St Margaret’s Church in Thimbleby (near Horncastle) has scooped two national awards at the 2019 UK Church Architecture Awards.

PPIY architects, based in York, have won the prestigious King of Prussia Gold Medal for their repair and conservation at St Margaret’s church and Alexa Stephens won the Young Architect of the Year Award for her role as lead architect for the work to replace the spire.

The King of Prussia Gold Medal is awarded for the best church repair and conservation architecture.  The Awards are run by the National Churches Trust and the Ecclesiastical Architects and Surveyors Association (EASA).

St Margaret’s Church is Grade II Victorian and was designed by local architect James Fowler in 1879. Thimbleby is known nationally for the large number of surviving mud and stud houses on either side of the main street which form part of the village’s Conservation Area, of which the church is a part.

By 2007 it was known that the church tower and spire were in very poor condition and there were increasing problems with debris falling outside the church and by October 2010 the church was closed due to safety reasons.  

English Heritage were concerned that the problem with the stone was not ‘normal’ as some of it had lost 50% of its thickness, particularly the blocks in the spire.  A Consultant Petrologist (a stone scientist) commissioned by English Heritage showed that the mortar used in the spire and the belfry was magnesium lime which is problematic if the fabric if limestone.

As a result all the spire had to be demolished and all the magnesium lime removed, the tower repaired and the spire rebuilt.

Prince Nicholas von Preussen, Patron of EASA and Vice President of the Natioanal Churches presented the King of Prussia Gold Medal for repair and conservation architecture together with a £500 cheque to the winners.

He said: “This was a fascinating architectural ‘who done it’.  The Victorian spire on this church had been deteriorating so much that the church was threatened with closure and spire had been removed in 2013. 

After much detective work it was discovered that the specification of the 19th century architect James Fowler had included his favourite mortar, so called ’dog kennel lime’;  the mortar has a high magnesium content which led to destructive salts leaching through the  building including the spire. Armed with the new knowledge, architects PPIY re-built the spire.”

PPIY received a cheque for £500 and Alexa received a prize of £250 supported by Ecclesiastical Insurance.  Thanks to the generosity of Richard Carr-Archer, she also received a magnificent new trophy designed by stained glass artist Keith Barley.

More details of the other awards can be found on the National Churches Trust website.