The Restoration Project

In 2002, the Church Council were aware that the building needed re-thatching, and realised that their funds were not adequate the meet the cost. The Head of Archaeology and Historic Buildings in the Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) Deborah Griffiths, visited Church House and suggested that in view of the importance of the building and the fact that It was probably the only Church House in Devon with smoke blackened thatch, we should undertake a comprehensive restoration. Public meetings were held in the autumn of 2002, and it was decided that a committee should be formed with the intention of applying to Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for support. In February 2003 we heard that we might be eligible for a grant, and Richard Bellamy (Development Officer HLF) guided us through the processes needed to put in a full application. 

If you would like to see a full video series about the restoration, then please go to our YouTube: Church House Youtube Channel Full Video Playlist @ChurchHouseSouthTawton

The Committee wished to continue to conserve and maintain this rare and architecturally important building and keep it in community use. This would enable people, both locally and regionally to continue to use it. Additionally they would be helping to sustain the craft of thatching and other traditional building skills. The proximity of the building to the Listed Grade 1 Church of Saint Andrew, in the centre of the village of South Tawton, is a significant attraction for visitors to the area and the Committee wished to encourage appropriate tourism, with the support of the Dartmoor National Park. The intention was to continue and increase the use of Church House for parish and church events, for adult education and the arts and for educational events. Artists and sculptors, both national and local, were also actively seeking to use Church House as a studio and as an exhibition venue. Part of the project, which included complete re-thatching, repairs to the fabric of the building, upgrading of access arrangements and improved facilities to ensure the future viability of the building, was the provision of interpretation and educational materials and the development of a suitable marketing strategy.

Reports and surveys were then commissioned.
      Historical Survey and measured drawings: Keystone, Exeter .(This work was funded jointly by English Heritage and the DNPA.
      Feasibility Study: Cynthia Gaskell Brown, M.A. Torpoint Cornwall.
      Condition Survey: Allen Van der Steen, Van der Steen Hall, Architects, Chagford.
All these Companies or individuals were chosen for their expertise and knowledge of historic buildings, and their work has been invaluable throughout the project.

Much of the funding for this crucial stage was provided by the Dartmoor Sustainable Development Fund (DNPA and DEFFRA), and Peter Joyce, the fund officer, helped us with the forms. The Parish Council and Friends of Church House also gave financial support at this vital stage when we did not know if we might be awarded a grant by HLF. One of our committee members and her daughter raised over £1100 by jumping from a small plane at 10,000 ft and a nearby country house garden, which was opened in aid of the project, raised £2700 and was visited by over 650 people.