Repairs on a church with “special” murals has begun “just in time as the roof was shot”, fundraisers said.

A 2017 inspection of St Leonard’s Church in Flamstead, Hertfordshire, revealed damage from leaking water, sparking a £1m fundraising appeal.

The leaks put “very high quality” 12th and 13th Century church murals at risk of permanent damage.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund awarded the project £750,000, while locals raised a further £285,000.

Flamstead Heritage project director, Andrew Lambourne, said: “Support was overwhelming from local people, local organisations and funds and trusts which support heritage buildings.

“And in March 2020 came the great news that, thanks to Lottery players, the National Lottery… would be contributing.”

The murals were covered up during the Reformation and rediscovered in the 1930s.

Art historian Ellie Pridgeon said they “stand out” among UK wall paintings, which makes them “very special”.

They are believed to be created by the same artist who painted murals at St Albans cathedral, and the Grade I-listed Norman building also has Tudor monuments and medieval graffiti.

After the 2017 inspection, Flamstead church was threatened with closure on safety grounds unless £1m could be raised in four years to repair severely-decayed medieval roof timbers.

The true extent of the damage was not revealed until the 1961 copper roof was removed.

Mr Lambourne said: “The main ridge beams, running like a spine along the length of the roof, are completely rotten, along with the ends of many of the rafters, which connect to it like ribs to hold up the roof.

“It could indeed all have collapsed.”

Emergency supports were installed in 2017 as a temporary solution.

Mr Lambourne said the church had “also created a vision on how we can share the building with all ages in the future – from a local theatre group and schools, to visitors interested in its history”.

Work to repair the roof and other issues inside the church is due to be completed by the autumn.

Story courtesy www.bbc.co.uk