When I expressed interest in taking part in any Tugby Tower archaeological dig to Madeleine, pint in hand on a Friday evening, I didn’t foresee where my request would end! I might have used the expression – “lend a hand”. By the conclusion of the project I had scaled the Tower scaffolding many times taking more photos than David Bailey, dug along the north side wall of the church with many volunteers from the village (with a few press ganged or bribed), attempted to get a bell to chime with pathetic results and chased Natterer’s bats around the village.

The archaeology plan for involving villagers in the project was twofold – in lowering the ground level along the north wall of the church to prevent ingress of water to the Nave and to search for any interesting remains as that area would have been utilised in the past as a market and for leisure activities. Other archaeology was conducted by a professional archaeologist who over the period of the project amassed a large number of human skeletal remains retrieved from the building trenches. These were neatly labelled and bagged for examination and subsequently reburied in the church grounds. Fragments of bones were very evident in the earth piles from the trenches.

All building and conservation work was required to be photographed over the period of the project, and as the owner of a non-telephone camera and not through any skill level, I was enlisted to help accomplish that activity. Prior to my acrobatic feats on the Tower there is of course the elf ‘n’ safety to go through, with a beauty parade wearing High Vis jackets and hard hats – Madeleine won first prize for this!

The photographic recording of the Tower work as it progressed required at least two visits a week – must have looked the part as was asked which paper the photos would be published in but in all probability it was the “proper” camera that impressed. This work in the end was the most interesting as the scaffolding encasing the Tower allowed close examination of the stonework, magnificent gargoyles and eventually the structure of the roof plus not to mention the impressive views of the village. Certainly my fitness levels improved but was keen on finding a quicker way down other than bungie jumping but was banned from using the bucket on the rope round the pulley at the top of the Tower. Well at least I wasn’t banned from the Tower!

As much recording of the work in progress was also in the Nave where there were exciting times when the 350 year old ledger stone was removed to reveal a collapsed coffin and skeleton. The race was to complete the Nave floor and the Tower but the absolute pressure was the Tower so that the Natterer’s bats could have their fun together and produce offspring.

Fascinating project involving such skilled craftsmen, very knowledgeable archaeologist and an insight in to tree ring analysis which established the ages of the original oak beams in the Tower. I am grateful for being asked to give some of my time to help accomplish the church renovation.

Roger Vernon

36months of restoration work
276tonnes of materials
143new shrubs and herbs planted
160helping hands