Torbryan rood screen will rise again

More than £7,000 has been raised by public donations to repair priceless rood screen panels hacked from south Devon church

Heritage Lottery Fund also awards £47,000 grant for project to tell the stories of the church and the local area

Following a national fundraising campaign, The Churches Conservation Trust  today announced it has reached its target of £7,000 in public donations to conserve the priceless rood screen panels hacked from Holy Trinity Church in Torbryan in Devon by thieves in August 2013, and later recovered by the police.

In a double blessing for the Devon church, the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has also awarded a £47,000 grant for a two-year project to tell the history of the building and the surrounding village and countryside, adding imaginative new on-site interpretation and events.

A fundraising campaign was launched in May 2015 to pay for vital restoration work after the two priceless 15th century oak panels - bearing paintings of St Victor of Marseilles and St Margaret of Antioch – were recovered by the police with significant damage. Following their theft in August 2013, the panels had remained missing until they were recovered by the Metropolitan Police Art & Antiques Unit after being spotted by a private collector in an online sale.

Crispin Truman, Chief Executive of The Churches Conservation Trust said:

“This is truly fantastic news. The theft of the Torbryan rood screen panels in August 2013 was a real blow to The Churches Conservation Trust, but thanks to the generosity of the public, where once we were faced with a tragedy, now we are celebrating victory.

“Not only will the panels now be returned to their rightful place at Holy Trinity Torbryan, but also a community project supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund will encourage local residents and schoolchildren to learn their fascinating story. I’m truly grateful to all those who offered their help in restoring this priceless masterpiece, and encouraging the world to enjoy their beauty.”

Nerys Watts, Head of HLF South West, said:

“The Torbryan rood panels are finally back where they belong. Once treated so badly by a few it is the passion and generosity of the many which has ensured a bright future for this beautiful piece of our heritage. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players we’re delighted to help tell the fascinating story behind the panels which hit the headlines and uncover the wider history of Torbryan.”

Though the two stolen panels are currently being safely stored off site, once the restoration work has taken place, they will be returned to the church, and the public will not only be able to observe the newly-restored rood screen, but also to join in a project – supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund – which will allow visitors to learn the hidden histories of Torbryan. The tumultuous history of the rood screen will also be explored, alongside the role of local nobleman Sir William Petre during the Reformation and the story of local caves which were the unlikely source of prehistoric finds by Victorian archaeologist James Lyon Widger.  A programme of events will also be developed to encourage local people, schools and organisations and tourists to visit the church throughout the year.

Throughout the project local residents are being invited to volunteer, taking part in conservation, welcoming visitors to the church, organising events and undertaking further research into the history of Holy Trinity and Torbryan. Anyone interested in volunteering can register their interest now by emailing [email protected].

Though funds have been raised for the restoration of the panels, The Churches Conservation Trust still urgently needs to raise money for a number of other projects, including the restoration of the Edlington beakheads.