The work to rescue a medieval church near Tenby has sparked interest and support from all over the world.

Built above the River Ritec next to three holy wells, St Lawrence’s Church at Gumfreston is a much-loved local landmark, with its 800-year-old font, dovecote, 15th-century wall paintings and 14th-century bell. This ancient building is being repaired from top to bottom

On Saturday, June 8, visitors were invited to go ‘behind the scenes’ at St Lawrence’s to see the work in progress on site, to meet the Friends of Friendless Churches (FoFC) team - including director Rachel Morley - and the experts helping to bring the church back from the brink.

In 2021, Gumfreston Church closed for regular worship and the following year was designated ‘at risk’. Choked in ivy and waterlogged from long-term water ingress, the roof, walls and floors were all seriously damaged and the fragile medieval wall paintings were under threat. The FoFC was awarded grants from the National Heritage Memorial Fund and Cadw. Thanks to these grants, and the support of members and donors, they have been able to save the church from further ruin, in the nick of time.  

Sixty visitors at the fully-booked event enjoyed tours, talks and demonstrations during the day. They learned about the repair project from architect Andrew Faulkner and heard about the history and archaeology of the church from archaeologist Ross Cook. Local heritage restoration company Tree & Sons demonstrated how traditional materials such as lime are being used to repair the building, and conservator Jane Rutherfoord talked about the church’s mysterious medieval wall paintings. 

So visitors had a ‘behind the scenes’ look at the repair project and the skills involved, seeing the work done so far and how it’s already making a difference to St Lawrence’s.

Work to the exterior will be complete later in the summer. The interior, and investigation and conservation of the surviving wall paintings - some of which are peeking out from beneath centuries-old limewash - is due to be completed by next spring, when the church will reopen to visitors.