Algarkirk’s St Peter & St Paul Church, known as the Cathedral of the Fens, is undergoing a transformation thanks to the work of offenders working on a Community Payback scheme.
The scheme, managed by the Humber, Lincolnshire & North Yorkshire Community Rehabilitation Company (HLNY CRC), has involved teams of people on unpaid work orders at the church in the ancient village of Algarkirk, near Boston.
Now St Peter & St Paul, a Grade I listed building, has had a major makeover in the graveyard and there are long-term plans to renovate some the building’s interior. The graveyard has been cleared of weeds and undergrowth and buried graves revealed – including that of Rector Basil Berdidge who commissioned and paid for the installation of the beautiful stained glass and decorative plasterwork that has made this building a national treasure.
And. now that the space surrounding the church has been opened to visitors, people have been expressing their pleasure and gratitude for the CRC’s work.
Nigel Harris, projects officer at HLNY CRC, said: “Since we began work at St Peter & St Paul back in October, the reaction from villagers and other visitors to the church has been very positive as they have witnessed at the genuine contribution offenders can make when working on a Community Payback scheme.”
Community Payback aims to rehabilitate offenders through working on projects that benefit the community.
Since August the team working at St Peter & St Paul, have formed an ongoing working partnership in Algarkirk to deliver noticeable results and are now putting the finishing touches to the church yard renovation.
Next year HLNY CRC will be working with the Heritage Skills Team at Lincoln Cathedral to deliver restoration training for offenders as part of the on-going work on St Peter & St Paul’s interior.
The work has been praised by local community leaders, and the Parochial Church Council have unanimously agreed to the erection of a plaque to commemorate the team’s role in restoring the churchyard.
Churchwarden, Cheryllyn Humphreys, said: “The work carried out by the people on the payback scheme has made a great difference. We could never have afforded to have this work carried out. Not only have the payback team opened up the vista of the church but we have actually seen flowers appearing on graves newly uncovered by the team.
“Villagers have told us the work has restored their faith in the community payback scheme. In the past they believed that payback didn’t really do anything, but this has been a real eye-opener for them.”
Ms Humphreys added: “People have also commented on how polite the workers were, which is another indication of how often villagers have been stopping to speak to the them. We have even had an offer from a couple of ladies to come and make tea for the men at midday.”
Martin Davies, chief executive of HLNY CRC, said: “Community Payback schemes like the one delivered at St Peter & St Paul Church provide a means by which offenders learn new skills to support their rehabilitation and future employment prospects, and also put something back into their local community.”
Algarkirk residents are now seeking to establish a local history research centre in the church that will act as an archive of information relating to all periods of history at the church and the village of Algarkirk. The village is said to be named after Algar, Earl of Mercia, who was killed at Threekingham in 870 while resisting the Danes and is reputedly buried in the graveyard of St Peter and St Paul.
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.