Medieval Norfolk church wins heritage award

A rescued Norfolk church is among the winners of this year's English Heritage Angel Awards.

St Mary's, West Somerton, has a thatched roof and medieval round tower, as well as wall paintings from the 14th century.

Pauline Burkitt and Simon Pleasley oversaw a major restoration project to replace the thatched roof, restore the plastering and install new drains to keep the magnificent wall paintings dry.

Mr Pleasley said: "Because we are church wardens we are responsible for the fabric of the church. People don't realise that.

"They think 'oh it's the church that does it'. It isn't. The church hasn't got the money. It has to be individuals who are prepared to stick their necks out and raise enough money to stop these places from falling down."

The awards were founded by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber last year to celebrate the efforts of local people in rescuing their at-risk heritage.

The winners of this year's awards were chosen from 16 finalists and announced at a ceremony this morning at the Palace Theatre in London.

They are:

Angel Award for the Best Rescue of an Industrial Building or Site
- Max Sinclair for The Droitwich Canals, Wychavon, Worcestershire

Angel Award for the Best Rescue of any Heritage building or site
- Cockermouth Shopfront Steering Group for Main Street, Cumbria

Angel Award for the Best Repair of a Place of Worship
- Pauline Burkitt and Simon Pleasley, Church Wardens for St Mary’s Church, West Somerton, Norfolk

Angel Award for the Best Craftsmanship Employed on a Heritage Rescue
- Station Developments for Tynemouth Station, North Tyneside

Angel Award voted for by English Heritage followers and Telegraph readers
- Russell Savory, Friends of Stow Maries Aerodrome for Stow Maries Word War I Airfield, Maldon, Essex

The awards were hosted by TV presenter Clare Balding and presented by Graham Norton, Philip Mould, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, Melvyn Bragg and Charles Moore.

The judging panel included the Bishop of London, Dr Richard Chartres, and historian Bettany Hughes.

Mr Lloyd Webber said: “I am delighted for all the winners of this year’s Angel Awards who were chosen from a very strong shortlist.

"I think it is hugely important to publicly recognise the efforts of those rescuing heritage sites in order to show our appreciation for their work and encourage even more people across the country to do the same.”

Dr Simon Thurley said: “Once again we have been dazzled by the energy, invention, commitment and public spiritedness of thousands of people determined to save their precious heritage. While the angel awards were presented to five people, we are all winners, as we can now enjoy the historic places they have saved for the future.”