A CHURCH in a village near York has won almost half a million pounds in lottery cash to help fund essential conservation work.

Escrick Parochial Church Council’s project for St Helen’s Church will receive a £471,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards the project, which will also fund a ‘heritage hub’ aimed at bringing to life the interwoven 800-year story of the Escrick estate, village and church.

The project is dubbed “Walking through the centuries with a Legless Knight,” a reference to a legless stone effigy of a thirteenth century knight at the church, which is thought to represent Roger de Lascelles, who was once ‘Lord of the Manor’.

The 800-year-old efficy is acknowledged by the Church Monuments Society to be carved to a very high standard, said Christine Mason, PCC secretary. “The weathered details tell us much about the fashion of the time and the precise date when it was carved.”

She said that when the refurbishment was completed, there would be opportunities for the wider community to get involved, sharing and investigating stories, designing village trails and learning and developing new skills.

“The hub will also be a valuable resource for individuals, local schools and interest groups.”

She said St Helen’s, built 160 years ago, was a Grade II* Gothic Revival building and focal point for the local community.

The lottery fund had provided approximately 80 per cent of the projected cost of the project, with remaining partnership funding already secured from church resources with much-appreciated support from the Friends of St Helen’s.

Project team leader and churchwarden, Caroline Wandless, said: “We are overjoyed that the Heritage Lottery Fund is going to make it possible for us to realise our long-held wish to upgrade St Helen’s facilities, enhance the unique apsidal baptistery and create a versatile heritage hub to ensure a sustainable long term future.”

The Rector, the Reverend Richard Kirkman, said the grant would enable the church’s remarkable heritage to be showcased and to be made more comfortable and versatile for both its core worshippers and for a more extensive range of events to appeal to a wider community.