This article appears in today's Leicester Mercury:
The "jewel of Leicester's churches" needs support
I was pleased to hear a "significant grant" of £40,000 was made just before Christmas to St Mary de Castro, from the National Churches Trust.
Known as the "jewel of Leicester's churches", grade I-listed St Mary de Castro is nationally important: it is where King Henry VI was knighted in 1426 and it is thought the poet Geoffrey Chaucer was married there.
King Richard III's body is also believed to have lain in rest there after his death at the Battle of Bosworth.
Today, with Leicester Castle, it forms one of the important heritage areas of the city.
However, at more than 900 years old, its 80ft-tall spire is needing urgent financial attention, as Vic Allsop, of St Mary de Castro explains: "We are delighted English Heritage/Heritage Lottery Fund has made a significant in principal grant of £187,000 towards restoration.
"We're in phase one, the development project. Phase two is the work itself.
"When the project started and scaffolding was erected inside the spire, close inspection revealed bad news.
"Previous inspections with 'cherry pickers' and binoculars did not identify cracks in the tower that were severe, putting the potential stability and future viability of the spire at stake.
"We had to act quickly: permission was given to carry out advance works to stabilise what was potentially a serious situation for the church.
"At the churches own cost of £30,000, the spire was stabilised and made safe by introducing nine stainless steel bands inside the spire."There is a possibility the spire will need to be taken down and rebuilt, which could potentially exceed £500,000. The phase one specification will confirm the final figure.
"The damage to the spire was caused by previous restorations, inappropriate stone and concrete pointing at the top of the spire, which has put pressure on and is eroding the stonework below.
"Regular inspections take place from the internal scaffolding. In the summer, the SOS (Save Our Spire) Appeal started. We have been overwhelmed by many offers of support and it is clear St Mary de Castro has the support of the community.
"We recently launched the Save our Stones Appeal with the help of one of our sponsors Newby Castleman. This is a practical way in which people can make a contribution to the restoration of the spire."
For more information on how you can help, contact appeal co-ordinator Rosemary Mason on 07710 531792 or via: sosstmarydecastro@ btinternet.com