A south Norfolk church celebrated its restoration with its first marriage ceremony in more than 40 years - after getting special permission from the Archbishop of Canterbury.

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Elizabeth Rohde and Nick Champion today tied the knot at the resurrected St Mary’s Church in Forncett St Mary, which had been in a dilapidated state five years ago.

The wedding was a big day for the couple, but also marked a new era for the 13th century church, near Long Stratton, which last held a marriage ceremony on October 25 1969.

The Grade I listed building was abandoned and made redundant by the Diocese of Norwich in the 1980s because of a dwindling congregation. However, new life has been injected into the historic church by a dedicated group of villagers who have restored it for community use.

The new Mrs Champion said it was “a bit touch and go” whether they would get married at St Mary’s because permission only arrived from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s office a few weeks ago to hold the service in the chapel of ease.

The 31-year-old, who was brought up in the village and lives in Forncett, said they felt “privileged” to get married at the restored church.

“When I was growing up I used to walk around the grounds and though the weeds and it was like Sleeping Beauty’s castle. It is a beautiful church and it has amazing views. It has a lovely story and it is fantastic to get married there.”

“The team at St Mary’s has been amazing at moving things around and getting it ready and it has been a real community effort. It is a big day for St Mary’s, not just us,” she said.

The couple met two years ago through their work with the National Trust and got engaged in February. Elizabeth works as a visitor experience manager at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk and Mr Champion is a regional communications manager for the charity.

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