The Alabaster Arch, which forms part of the outside of the West Door of the Grade 1 Listed Priory Church of St. Mary, Tutbury, is unique.
Built from local alabaster, it is the only external alabaster arch in the country and the earliest example (circa 1160) of alabaster carving.
In the early 19th century it was described as being in “a state of perfect preservation”. In the 1960s it was described as being “in a remarkable state of preservation”. But in 2013, Hirst Conservation noted that the general environment is having “a catastrophic effect on the stone”. A cursory examination today will show many of the alabaster blocks that make up the arch are badly weathered and almost all of the arch is badly discoloured.
The picture on the left below shows a block in reasonable condition, the picture on the right one of the more weathered blocks, although not the worst (click on the pictures for a larger image). The arch is made up of 30 blocks, almost half of which have significant weathering.
The discolouration can also be seen - the near white colour in some parts of the pictures is what it should look like.
To protect and preserve as much of the Priory Arch and its unique architecture as possible for future generations will require that it is cleaned (with a laser!) and the worst of the fissures that let in the water sealed (consolidated).
Therefore, St. Mary’s Parochial Church Council have launched a project to conserve the Alabaster Arch. The project, known as the Conservation of the Priory Alabaster Arch (CoPAA), will raise funds, obtain the necessary ecclesiastical and secular permissions and subsequently carry out the physical conservation. A Condition Survey and separate Cleaning Trials were carried out in 2013 and 2015 by Hirst Conservation at a cost of £3,312.
Further information about the project can be read here.
It is expected that the total project cost will be about £35,000 and take two years to complete (the actual on-site work by Hirst Conservation will take 4-8 weeks). The money will be raised from grants, donations, events, collections and gifts - it is reliant on the generosity of the people of Tutbury and the surrounding areas and those who care about the preservation of irreplaceable church architecture and craftsmanship from over 850 years ago.
A Just Giving page will be set up soon to enable money to be donated but cash and cheques are just as acceptable.
For cash donations, please see the CoPAA contacts page. Cheques, made payable to “The PCC of Tutbury St. Mary’s”, should be given to the same contacts or sent to
The Treasurer CoPAA 37 Portway Drive Tutbury Burton-on-Trent DE13 9HU