Deadline looms to save ancient St Buryan church
Its steeple has been one of the most consistent features of Penwith's skyline for centuries, but unless its parishioners pull off a minor fundraising miracle, St Buryan church could face a grave future.
A campaign to raise money to replace the roof at the 15th-century church was started in February last year after the congregation learnt it was slowly decaying.
But despite raising more than £300,000 to repair it over the past 18 months, fundraisers are still almost £50,000 short of their target.
And if they can't generate that sum by November, they will be left with a further £75,000 to find and the real possibility that no more services will be held in the church.
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Grant co-ordinator Professor Colin Roberts said: "If the work isn't done the roof will not be watertight and the roof timbers which abut the flank walls and which we already know are damaged and rotten, will decay further making the roof unstable in places.
"Apart from the rotting timbers, the short-term damage will be water penetrating into the walls and damaging the stonework and internal rendering, which is already happening in some areas.
"If the roof is allowed to decay further, the whole structure could become unstable and the church could well be closed – hence the urgency."
Fundraisers were set an initial target of just over £140,000 but, due to spiralling costs, the price of work has risen to more than £350,000.
They have run 45 events over the past 18 months, which, together with donations, have raised £50,000.
The church has also received a number of grants totalling £182,000, including £105,000 from English Heritage. On top of this, £30,000 has been found from reserves and other sources have helped the group reach its current total.
Scaffolding went up around the church in August, with fundraisers electing to replace the inner slopes before winter.
However, with not enough money to pay for the outer slopes to be replaced, the group would have to pay £75,000 for the scaffolding to be re-erected once it is taken down.
The congregation has already exhausted most grant sources available and are not clear how long it would take to raise the total which would be in excess of £120,000.
Yet, Mr Roberts is praying that they will somehow be able to raise the money by November.
"Unfortunately, the church cannot go to the banks to borrow money," he said.
"Locals have supported our appeal to the tune of just over £51,000 and that has taken over 18 months with 45 fundraising events – a level of activity which would be hard, if not impossible, to sustain."