This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
Spire appeal gets big boost
An appeal to save the spire of one of England's most historically important churches has been given a £40,000 funding boost.
St Mary de Castro's spire appeal has been given the money by the charity National Churches Trust.
Described as the "jewel of Leicester's churches", its spire is in desperate need of repair after six-metre cracks were discovered on four of its six faces.
The money donated will go towards the SOS (Save Our Spire) fund-raising appeal, which was launched in September and is looking to raise up to £500,000 to fix the damage.
Church member and appeal co-ordinator Rosemary Mason said the award was a timely boost for the appeal.
"We are one of only eight church projects in the country to be awarded one of these grants, so it's a big coup for us," she said.
"It helps a tremendous amount towards paying for essential repairs and in building up momentum behind the appeal."
Claire Walker, chief executive of the National Churches Trust, said: "We are delighted to be providing funding – a £40,000 Cornerstone grant will help fund major repairs to the church spire of this nationally significant church."
The grade I-listed St Mary de Castro is on heritage watchdog English Heritage's 'at risk' register.
King Henry VI was knighted in St Mary's in 1426 and it is also thought Geoffrey Chaucer was married there.
King Richard III's body is believed to have lain in rest in the church after his death at the Battle of Bosworth.
English Heritage has already offered to pay £187,000 towards the spire repair, with supporters raising more than £2,000 since the appeal's launch.
"The appeal is going really well," said Mrs Mason.
"Our Sponsor a Stone scheme has had a very positive take-up, with about 45 people signing up and more people approaching us every day for the chance to have their names recorded in the church archives for posterity.
"It's been a fantastic response and we're grateful to everyone for their continued support."
De Montfort University students have adopted the spire appeal as part of the university's Square Mile (Mile2) regeneration project, supporting the communities of Woodgate, Tudor Road, Fosse Road and Newfoundpool.
Mark Charlton, Mile2 manager, said: "St Mary de Castro historically served these areas and our students wanted to be part of the SOS campaign.
"We organised a fundraising carol concert in the church and students will stage a vintage clothing fair in the spring."
Work on the spire is expected to begin in the new year.