A £318,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) means urgent repair work can be carried out on four monumental statues considered masterpieces of “exceptional significance”.
The statues, at the Grade I-listed St Edmund’s Church in Warkton, near Kettering, span the Georgian era from 1749 to 1829.
The 12th-century church has been part of the Montagu family’s estate since the 1530s. The monuments, spanning three successive generations, were put in place dedicated to John, the second Duke of Montagu (1752), Lady Mary Churchill, wife of the 2nd Duke and daughter of the Duke of Marlborough (1753), John and Mary’s daughter, Mary (1775) and her daughter Elizabeth (1827).
The monuments to the second Duke and his wife were created by Louis Francois Roubiliac, widely considered the greatest sculptor in England in the 18th century.
“Francois Roubiliac’s sculptures are considered to be surpassed only by the monument to Lady Elizabeth Nightingale at Westminster Abbey,” said Vanessa Harbar, Head of the HLF in the East Midlands. “Problems with the monuments were first highlighted in the 1970s, and we understand they have worsened in the last four years. These monuments should not be allowed to deteriorate any further.”
The conservation project is being led by the Parochial Church Council of St Edmund’s Church, Warkton, and Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust, and will include the employment of a learning and outreach officer, student placements organised by East Midlands Heritage Skills Hub and comprehensive training for volunteers as guides.
Gareth Fitzpatrick, director of collections for the Buccleuch Living Heritage Trust, said: “We are delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund is supporting the efforts of the Trust and St Edmund’s Church to ensure the long term survival of these superb monuments which are an important community asset and of such world class importance.”
Edward Lamb, Church Warden at St Edmund’s Church, added: “The church community has always been proud of these fine monuments and, through the partnership and support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, we are looking forward to sharing them with a wider and more diverse audience.”