THE first phase of the emergency renovation of an historic 13th century church has begun after donors gave more than £250,000.

Conservationists at St Mary’s Church, in Lydiard Park, have begun the vital high-level and emergency repair works necessary to make the building wind and watertight.

Since launching the appeal last May, the church has successfully raised the money needed to carry out the work, through a combination of local fundraising by the congregation and the wider public, along with grants from a number of bodies including English Heritage and Wiltshire Historic Churches Trust.

Work to begin the cleaning and conservation of the unique wall paintings in the church is now nearing completion.

Following the Flower Festival to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee during the first weekend in June, work will commence to repair dormer windows, part of the St John Chapel roof, general masonry repairs and the replacement of all the rainwater goods.

It is anticipated all the work will be completed by the end of July.

Rev Clive Deverell, team minister for St Mary’s, said he was grateful to everyone who has contributed to the appeal so far.

He said: “For a community like St Mary’s, finding £1m to restore the church is more than putting a man on the moon.

“I think we can achieve it. It is a local and a national treasure.”

The church will be open to the public to view the works as they are being carried out and services will continue to be held a usual throughout this period.

The second phase of the project, which will focus on the major refurbishment of the building and conservation of the historic monuments and other artefacts will start to be planned later this year with a view to making an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund at the end of 2012.

It is expected this will cost up to £750,000.

To donate to the conservation appeal contact Hilary Gardner on 01793 874325 or email