£20,000 National Churches Repair Grant to help fund urgent roof repairs.
St Michael and All Angels, ‘The Sistine Chapel of the north’ is the parish church of Great Witley, Worcestershire. It stands alongside, but is independent of Witley Court, a ruined mansion under the guardianship of English Heritage. The building, completed in 1732, houses one of the country’s most important baroque interiors. Simon Jenkins in ‘England’s Thousand Best Churches’ calls it "An Italianate extravaganza".
Three ceiling paintings, which were transported intact from the home of the Duke of Chandos, (Cannons House at Edgware in Middlesex,) in 1747, are rare examples of the work of the Italian artist Antonio Bellucci and were subject to extensive restoration in 1993/4 after years of neglect.
Breathtaking gilded ceiling mouldings were made on site in the 1740s using papier-maché moulds. Some 10 years ago, the cross, orb and cupola over the clock tower were re-gilded to spectacular effect.
The church also has a fine organ, its case being from the instrument on which Handel played. Many musicians consider its acoustics for music to be as fine as any building of its size outside London.
When the roof coverings were last repaired in the 1970s, many of the tiles were secured by tingles or with coach bolts and neoprene washers, now considered a very poor technique. Many of the tiles are also now in a poor condition, being cracked, split or becoming unfixed. Given the importance of the delicate ceiling and ceiling paintings beneath, any water leaks caused by defective slates or flashings could be disastrous.