Restoring the Church

Restoring the church - and most specifically the tower and wonderful clock - has been a priority for a very long time and three years ago, we launched our restoration appeal, Taking Back Time. Not many churches can boast of being 'hung' in the National Gallery. St. Bartholomew's can. We are Grade 2* listed, and celebrated by Camille Pissarro (often called the Father of Impressionism) in his painting The Avenue, Sydenham in 1871. Our church, a local landmark since 1832, contains many wonderful - sometimes almost unique - features and now we need help to restore it. 

We've Done It! We are Restoring the Church at last!

We've raised enough money to restore our precious and unique Benjamin Vulliamy clock and the upper levels of the tower that house it and work will begin very soon!

Not only that, but we now have enough to do some additional work along our upper levels so, by the end of the year we hope to have our entire upper level masonry restored, along with slipping roof tiles and even new safety ladders. 


The Background

Buildings don't tend to collapse all of a sudden. They crumble away into small pieces and that has been happening to the church from top to bottom. For example:

  • stonework is disintegrating; pieces have already fallen off
  • ridge tiles are broken, allowing in water which will rot the roof timbers if we don't act now
  •  brickwork needs re-pointing to keep out the frost and rain
  • the bolts securing the clock faces to the tower are rusting away
  • and the drains need overhauling to remove decades of tree roots and the debris, with rebuilding in places, to carry water away, preventing dampness and further outbreaks of dry rot.

What have we already done?

Over the last two years we have completed the following:

  • The South Porch:
  • The Vestry & Sacristy Roofs (with match funding fro the Listed Places of Worship Roof Repairs Fund)
  • Major drain repairs: some from the LPWRRPF as above and some from our own funds.
  • In addition, gutters have been cleared, slipping roof tiles re-sited, doors repainted and door frames mended.

The Clock Faces

Well, they have now been taken away by The Cumbria Clocks Company, along with our wonderful and rare mechanism, and this winter you should see them back in place, being driven the original mechanism for the first time in 50 years!

What's Happening Now?

We had been making huge efforts to raise funding to restore the tower, clock and clock face and we really wanted to replace the pinnacles, last seen in 1922. However, over the last few years the world of funding has changed dramatically and our chances of a large restoration grant gradually faded away.

But we were not daunted. So, we continued to apply for smaller amounts of money from a number of different funds. We decided we would restore and enhance the remaining building through a series of focused projects. The most urgent part for us was:

  1. The Tower, Phase 1: Higher Levels with Conservation and Re-instatement of the original Clock Mechanism and Faces, installation of electricity & lighting (for ease and safety of maintenance) and improved higher level access.

After that (not necessarily in the right order) we identified:

  1. The Tower, Phase 2: Lower level masonry and access
  2. The remaining Roofs & high level masonry
  3. Remaining drains.
  4. Masonry & Windows, lower level
  5. Internal Renovation
  6. Improved, accessible, toilets
  7. The Crypt

And the good news is that we are now able to tackle, not just the upper levels of the Tower, but also the remaining roofs and high level masonry and, while we have the scaffolding up, we want to look at improved safety ladders to make future maintenance safer.

We need to finish the drains work and still really want to push for the renovation of our underused crypt, so it can be used as a real community asset. It's difficult though, because no renovation of the crypt will bring it to full use without accessibility, which means a lift shaft as well as safe staircase. We have good ideas how - and where - to achieve this, but it means a lot of capital funding, while fewer grant bodies are interested in capital work. 

Consulting with you

What are your ideas?

So, keep watching this space and, if you would like to be kept up-to-date through our e-newsletter (sent out every few weeks), click Here or use the link on the right.


St. Bartholomew's is a building where worship, prayer and the nurturing of spiritual life has been a strong focus for over 180 years. We believe it is a place of significance and service to the local and wider community and - as part of the necessary restoration process (see below) - we intend to deepen and enhance those links. We will consult with and involve our community. We intend to improve accessibility, provide more facilities and offer opportunities for research and education, throughout this process.

St. Bartholomew's is a building of real historical, architectural and cultural importance. We are in the process of developing a section of this site to the art and architecture associated with this building, but a summary of some of its features is awe-inspiring:

  • A leading church architect, Lewis Vulliamy, who also worked on Rochester Cathedral
  • A clock-maker to the Crown, Benjamin Vulliamy (brother to Lewis), and a clock mechanism that is now one of only two or three left
  • An 'Arts & Crafts' Reredos by Henry Wilson, first editor of the Architectural Review, who worked on Ripon Cathedral and the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York
  • A 'Cosmati' mosaic pavement using a technique of combining glass and marble that dates back to 12th and 13th century Rome - also found in Westminster Abbey
  • An organ made by the world-famous William Hill & Sons, who made the organ for St. Andrew's Cathedral in Sydney and inaugurated by Queen Victoria's own organist
  • A wonderful collection of original stained glass and the more recent Francis Spear, now featured in the Stained Glass Museum in Ely

We even have a tree planted by the future Emperor Frederick III of Germany and his wife, Queen Victoria's eldest daughter!

What can you do?

Obviously, you can send us money - we will love you for ever if you do - but there will be lots of other ways you can get involved over the next few months and even years. For example you could:

  • Add this page to your favourites bar and follow our progress regularly
  • Let us know what YOUR vision for this church is. How can we improve it and enhance its use to the community?
  • PASS IT ON. Send this web link to everyone you can think of who might have an interest in the building, its history, architecture, artefacts etc.
  • Let local businesses, organisations and schools know what's happening. We want media studies students to make films, artists to paint, pupils to enjoy history projects, people to learn and share new skills.
  • Let us have your ideas for events, however off the wall. We want to fill the church with music, art and fun.
  • Subscribe to our E-Newsletter using the link on the right. Encourage others to do so as well. It will help keep you up-to-date with fund raising events and progress.

Call the Reverend Jim Perry on 020 3422 5343,

or email 


Please DONATE HERE and help to keep St. Bart's running during these difficult times.

Shop with AMAZON SMILE and 0.5% of the price of eligible purchases will be donated to St. Bart's at no cost to the buyer.


Contact Us 






 Click through for more details on a project to conserve the upper tower levels and reinstate Vulliamy's clock. Fund-raising in progress.




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 Most Urgent Now

Tower and Clock: First Phase



Further restoring the Tower

Repointing and brickwork throughout

Masonry/Stonework repairs throughout

Renewal of buttresses 

Restoring windows



Replace toilets, with improved accessibility

Safer access to roofs for easier maintenance

New facilities for the community eg lift to restored Crypt, re-instated gallery within church

Restoration of elements of heritage