An historic church in the centre of Cundall village, near Thirsk, North Yorkshire has been transformed thanks to the of work by 13 offenders on Community Payback.
The scheme, managed by the Humberside, Lincolnshire & North Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company (HLNY CRC), has involved teams of people on unpaid work orders clearing weeds from the graveyard, undergrowth and re-installing fallen gravestones opening up the space to visitors.
Now St Mary & All Saints parish church, a Grade I listed building which was rebuilt in 1854, has had a major makeover in the graveyard and in the church itself.
The graveyard has been cleared of weeds and undergrowth and fallen gravestones have been re-installed opening up the space to visitors.
Liz Rushton, Community Payback Manager, who supervised the renovation said: “The feedback has been fantastic and it is a great testament to the work carried out by the team – one visitor from Canada said she would never have been able to identify her ancestor’s grave stone before it was cleaned up and exposed from the undergrowth.”
Community Payback aims to rehabilitate offenders through working on projects that benefit the community.
Other work at St Mary & All Saints included the renovation of the 19th century nave, removal of peeling plaster, a new paint job on the walls and ceilings and remediation work on the church’s
ancient roof timbers. Among the community payback workers were a group of experienced builders and plasterers who helped renovate parts of the vestry and main tower.
Offenders are now putting the finishing touches to the church by helping to rebuild more than 50 metres of the perimeter stone wall.
The work has been praised by local community leaders.
Nigel Tapley, local resident and a bench chairman at Northallerton Magistrates Court and chair of the North Yorkshire Police Authority’s standards committee, said: “As a magistrate I have always seen unpaid work as something as a soft option but after this I can see the human side of Community Payback and the pride taken in the work done by the offenders.
“It’s also enabled us to do a lot of things we would not have been able to do without the help of HLNY CRC and the offenders its supports.”
Peter Stanley, treasurer and secretary of Cundall Parochial Church Council, said: “The church desperately needed repainting and decorating and they did a smashing job – it really was a professional job. What really impressed me was that the supervisors treated the community payback workers as human beings and as a result they worked their socks off and seemed to get real satisfaction out of it.”
He estimates that the work carried out by HLNY CRC saved the council more than £15,000.
Martin Davies, chief executive of HLNY CRC, said: “Community Payback is a punishment for breaking the law but it is also a way for offenders to learn new skills and to support their rehabilitation. Working on this and other similar projects across North Yorkshire means offenders not only give something back to the community but it teaches them valuable practical skills which can lead to future employment.”
Over the past 12 months HLNY CRC has supervised a wide range of community payback projects across North Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and Humberside bringing real benefits to the communities.