Churches in Brancaster, Great Bircham, Bircham Newton and Littleport share �444,000 in lottery funding

Four churches in West Norfolk and the Fens are celebrating after the Heritage Lottery Fund announced nearly half a million of funding to support their urgent repair works.

All Saints' Church, in Bircham Newton, St George's Church, in Littleport and the St Mary the Virgin's Churches, in Brancaster and Great Bircham, have been boosted by the news they will receive a share of �444,000 lottery funding.

The Grade II*-listed St George's Church will receive the largest grant at �187,000 for repair works to its tower. It is the oldest part of the church and dates back to the 15th century. But over the years the weather has taken its toll on the external stone walls and it is now in a serious state with render falling away.

Rev Rosemary Maskell, Vicar of Littleport, said 'We are delighted to receive this generous grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

'It has enabled us to commence important work that will help us ensure this parish church remains as a place of worship for generations to come.'

To complete the project the church needs to find a further �30,000 and various fundraising events are being arranged. The church will also be looking to local businesses, associ-ations and the residents to support it so that the building can remain a focal point in the community.

The Grade I-listed St Mary the Virgin's Church, in Great Bircham, will receive the next largest grant at �104,000. The Queen is patron of the church and last visited in 2006.

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The money will be used to carry out a number of works including parapet repairs to the nave, chancel, aisles and porch plus work to place seven windows which were 'on the verge of collapse', according to church warden Michael Lancefield.

He added: 'Overall it was getting to the point of desperation with these works so we are delighted to get the money and we hope work will start later this year.'

The Heritage Lottery Fund will give the Grade I-listed St Mary the Virgin's Church, in Brancaster, �92,000 to spend on repair works including re-slating the nave and chancel roofs.

Rev Christopher Wood said: 'We have realised for some time that our roof was in dire need of repair. But when we had the recent snow, we came in on the Sunday to see the inside covered in snow. It had managed to come in through gaps in the naves. This grant is a terrific amount and really breaks the back of the amount we may need to raise to complete all repair works.'

The repair work at the small Grade II*-listed All Saints' Church will include the renewal of pantiles to the chancel roof, the laying of new gullies and drains as well as reinstating ledger slabs below pew platforms.

William Bennion, church warden, said: 'We are absolutely thrilled we have got this grant for �61,000. For a small village church like ours to get a grant of this size, we feel very fortunate indeed.'

Across the east of England a total of 28 churches were given �2.8m to support emergency repair work.