CoPAA – Conservation of the Priory Alabaster Arch

Conservation of the Priory Alabaster Arch (CoPAA)

Bekow is an overview of the now completed CoPAA project

Conservation of the Priory Alabaster Arch

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 the arch is badly discoloured.  

The first picture shows a block in reasonable condition, the next picture shows one of the more weathered blocks, although not the worst.  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 launched a project to conserve the Alabaster Arch.  The project, known as the Conservation of the Priory Alabaster Arch (CoPAA), is raising funds, has obtained the necessary ecclesiastical and secular permissions and subsequently has carried out the Condition Survey and the physical Conservation.  An earlier smaller  Condition Survey and separate Cleaning Trials were carried out in 2013 and 2015 by Hirst Conservation at a cost of £3,312.

It is expected that the total project cost will be about £80,000 and will complete in 2018 (the actual on-site work by Hirst Conservation will take 8-9 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.  So far, approximately £76,000 has been raised leaving £4,000 still to be raised.

Conservation of the Priory Alabaster Arch
People on the CoPAA team were:


CoPAA Team Role

Fabric & Finance

Church Role

Phone (01283)

Rick Nuth

Project Lead



810 166

Jane Nuth




810 166

Joycelyn Hickman





Judith Collison





Margaret Pyle



Church Warden


Roger Sharp



PCC Deputy Chair


Jane Taylor





The conservation was carried out by Hirst Conservation ( overseen by the Church Architect Robert Kilgour (

Please feel free to contact us if you want to know more.

Contact the Project lead below:


    Time-lapse photography – cleaning an alabaster block (6 hours in 1 minute)

    Photographs of progress can be found on Flickr at CoPAA Progress to 2018 09 28

    • The latest CoPAA progress and status reports  can be read at

    2018 11 11 CoPAA Status Report – End of Phase II and 

    2018 10 06 CoPAA Status Report – End September 2018 

    2018 08 06 CoPAA Status Report – End July 2018

    2018 08 06 CoPAA Status Report – End August 2018

    2018 08 24 Tutbury Progress Notes

    2018 09 09 Tutbury Progress Notes

    If you have any queries about the project please contact

    The Condition Survey from Hirst Conservation – 155 pages long can be read here:

    FP-020 Tutbury Condition Report March 2018 revised – Part I (46 pages)

    FP-021 Tutbury Condition Report March 2018 revised – Part II (Appendices)  (110 pages)

    The specifications for the proposed work can be read in:

    FP-030 Hirst Cover Letter and Quote

    FP-031 Kilgour Quote RN3 060418

    FP-032 Russell Geomatics_Tutbury St Mary’s West Door Arch – Schedule of survey costs 23.04.18

    The following organisations and people have contributed to the CoPAA project – others have contributed anonymously:

    • British Gypsum

    • Duchy of Lancaster

    • J&O Lloyd Trust (Staffs Community Foundation)

    • Staffs Historic Churches Trust

    • ChurchCare (Condition Survey)

    • Tutbury Civic Society

    • Tutbury Priory Chapter

    • Open Gardens

    • Tutbury Priory Lodge

    • Friends of St. Mary’s

    • Restoration Fund

    • Priory Crafters

    • Cash donations

    • Friends of St. Mary’s- Kay Chapman Bequest

    • Organ concerts

    • Local Vocals Concert

    • Hot House Jazz concert

    • Bequest for Ben Sherratt

    • Ann Chan Foxley coffee morning

    • Mike and Judi Miller

    • Dr Philip & Janie Bell – “In memory of Phyllis M and Wilfred J Bell”

    • Ann Chan Foxley

    • Mrs Wildeblood

    • A Ward

    • “A Tutbury Christmas” Concert Donations

    • Susan Irvins

    • JH Grice – Funeral Directors

    • Miss Peggy King

    • American visitors

    • Wedding collection