Unique Dartmoor Church Secures Heritage Lottery Fund Grant

The Churches Conservation Trust has announced the award of a £45,000 grant that will help to save a unique Dartmoor church.

The award, made by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), will protect an important commemorative stained glass window at St. Michaels and All Angels’ Church at Princetown, the only church in England built by prisoners of war.  

The Grade II* listed church was built to serve nearby Dartmoor Prison, which held soldiers captured during the American War of 1812 and the Napoleonic Wars with France.

The church’s delicate, intricately painted east window, which depicts the life of Christ, was donated in 1910 as a special memorial to the 218 US soldiers who perished while incarcerated at Dartmoor Prison.

Neil Rushton, Conservation Projects Manager at the CCT, explains: “The window at Princetown church is an outstanding work of art, but harsh Dartmoor weather has sadly led to widespread paint loss, damage to its metal work and erosion of the external stone work. It now needs over £90,000 of conservation work so it can be saved for future generations to enjoy.”

2013 marks 200 years since US soldiers arrived in Princetown in June 1813. To honour the anniversary and encourage people to engage with the history of the church, the grant from HLF will also support a programme of events planned for the summer. These include:

  • Workshops with Princetown Community Primary School to create a temporary “stained glass” Perspex window to replace the real window while conservation work takes place
  • Learning events with university students
  • The creation of a new family trail that will explore the church and the lives of the prisoners
  • ‘Meet the conservators’ sessions for visitors and local people to find out more about the art of stained glass
  • A special service to commemorate the soldiers who built the church on 4th June 2013

Commenting on the grant award, HLF’s acting Head of South West, Richard Bellamy, said: “The bicentenary of the arrival in Princetown of American PoWs provides a fitting opportunity to bring the unique heritage of St Michael and All Angels’ Church to a wider audience.  HLF is proud to be able to support the work of the Churches Conservation Trust, both the preservation of the church’s wonderful stained glass, and the planned programme of activities, which will bring the history of the church and the town alive for both local people and visitors alike.”

Contributions toward the total cost of the work will also be made by the Churches Conservation Trust and the National Society of US Daughters of 1812, who originally donated the memorial window. However £25,000 still needs to be raised. If you think you could help save the window – or for more information on the church and its history – visit visitchurches.org.uk/princetown.