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Hands-on Heritage at St Andrew's Soham

It is just over a year since the team at St Andrew’s Church started phase one of major repairs to the church. 

The project, which was awarded a grant of just over £247,000 from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, includes an exciting programme of practical activities which aim to celebrate heritage skills and inspire younger generations.

Last summer, Y9 and Y10 Foundation Learning Tier students from Soham Village College took part in a three-day community dig, to explore some of Soham’s fascinating ‘history beneath our feet’. 

Local people kindly offered their gardens for the students to dig test pits, and process and record finds. All carefully managed by Wessex Archaeology, the dig was a fantastic opportunity for the students to learn a range of skills from archaeology and photography to teamwork and communication.  The project has been a source of inspiration for all involved, with teachers and archaeologists witnessing a positive change in students.


“as you go on you see more and more enthusiasm”


It has reignited a passion among staff for their subject, highlighted the benefits of learning outside the classroom and introduced students to a whole new avenue of training and careers.

This was broadened a few months later when the same students had the opportunity to take part in a celebration of heritage skills.  The hands-on event took place over two days, the first for schools and the second open to the wider public. 

People had the opportunity to try out a range of traditional skills including basket weaving, carpentry, flint knapping, brick laying, using lime mortar etc.   

These skills are still in great demand, but the industry is struggling to recruit new trainees, which leaves the future care of our rich historic environment at risk.  Events like this, made possible by players of the National Lottery, help to highlight the importance of these skills and shine a light on the opportunities and careers available to young people, particularly those who excel in more practical and creative industries.

During this project, however, it became clear that all was not quite as it seemed at the church.  The repair work presented the opportunity to take a closer look at some carved creatures on the building, previously thought to be two monkeys. 

To find out their true identity, watch the second of two inspiring videos produced to celebrate the fantastic work of the project.



Community Dig (The community dig will be repeated this year with a new group of students)

Hands-on Heritage Skills

Find out about upcoming events on the church’s website

Thanks also go to private donors, Thalia WB (formerly Amey Cespa) Community Fund and the Cambridgeshire Historic Churches Trust for their support with the urgent repairs.

About The National Lottery Heritage Fund

  • As the largest dedicated funder of the UK’s heritage, The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s vision is for heritage to be valued, cared for and sustained for everyone, now and in the future as set out in the strategic plan, Heritage 2033.
  • Over the next ten years, the Heritage Fund aims to invest £3.6billion raised for good causes by National Lottery players to bring about benefits for people, places and the natural environment.
  • The Heritage Fund helps protect, transform and share the things from the past that people care about, from popular museums and historic places, our natural environment and fragile species, to the languages and cultural traditions that celebrate who we are.
  • The Heritage Fund is passionate about heritage and committed to driving innovation and collaboration to make a positive difference to people’s lives today, while leaving a lasting legacy for future generations to enjoy.
  • Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund
Page last updated: Wednesday 6th March 2024 10:28 AM
First published on: 7th February 2024
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