Emergency repairs to a crumbling Paston family memorial have added an unwelcome £38,000 to a north Norfolk church’s already-weighty bill for restoration.

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Church chiefs at historic St Margaret’s, in the village of Paston, were trying to raise £130,000, helped by an English Heritage grant.

The sum was needed to make the Grade One listed building dry and watertight, enabling important medieval wall paintings to be preserved and restored.

But last month specialist Dr David Carrington inspected the early 14th-century church’s memorials and discovered that the tomb of Lady Katherine Paston was in danger of collapse.

The reclining effigy of Lady Katherine, who died in 1628, is now sheltering under a temporary wooden lean-to, protecting her from falling masonry as metal fixing pins rust, expand and split the stonework above. Her memorial, made by Nicholas Stone, master-mason to King Charles I, includes an epitaph` written by the metaphysical poet John Donne.

Lady Katherine married into the Paston family, world famous for the letters members wrote to each other, mainly in the 15th century, giving historians invaluable insight into their domestic, business and political concerns during a period which included the Wars of the Roses.

Churchwarden Nick Bardswell said the extra memorial work would leave them with an overall funding gap of nearly £60,000. They were re-applying to English Heritage but, with a congregation of just 10, it would be a struggle to meet the shortfall.

Meanwhile a new sub-committee, made up of church and Paston Heritage Society representatives, has just held its first meeting, aimed at planning the long-term future of the church.

Supporters hope it can be used for worship, as a base for the society and its work, a community meeting place, and a visitor attraction linked to the nearby medieval Paston Great Barn.

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