Visitors to St Peter and St Paul Church, Blockley had a rare chance to explore the hidden staircases and tower over the Bank Holiday weekend.
One of the hidden staircases is largely gone, with just a circular column in the vestry showing where a staircase would have run to an upstairs prayer room.
The second hidden staircase is a full, well-lit stone staircase hidden in the middle of a pillar. To access it, part of the wooden panelling in the chancel has to be removed. This staircase takes you up into the eaves of the chancel (the part of the church where the choir sits) and may have once formed a priest’s hiding place. This part of the church dates back to the 1300s.
Over 50 people also made the long trek up the tower to enjoy the fabulous views of Blockley from above (see picture below).
Over the weekend, the church also started to share initial ideas for a reordering of the church building with a ‘pre-consultation conversation’ opened with visitors.
Churchwarden Rob Greenstock, said, “We will have a full presentation and consultation with congregation and community to get their views – this was just an initial conversation to ‘test the water’ but so far 10 written comments have been submitted and all were in favour.
“Plans are very much in the ideas stage at the moment, but it is hoped that the pews might be replaced with loose seating and a toilet and kitchen or servery might be installed. We also hope to create an improved children’s area in the nave and a space for private prayer, as well as connecting the newly fitted, energy-saving boilers to updated pipework.”
The PCC is looking forward to working with the DAC and other partners to better reveal and enhance the significance of this important, grade II* listed church. Parishioner Robert Burch is masterminding the working committee and liaising with architects and facility bodies to attract new creative uses for the building.
It’s not the first time that the church has raised money to fund major repairs to its buildings. In recent years the tower has been reroofed and the bells have been rehung, with the provision of two additional bells.
Rob said, “People in our community have given generously – our church has a wonderfully warm, welcoming feeling and if this project helps to reimagine the church for coming generations then that will be very helpful.”