Church awarded £220,000 grant to become a hub for community

Ovington Church has been awarded a £220,000 lottery grant for vital repair work. Pictured are (L) ch

Ovington Church has been awarded a £220,000 lottery grant for vital repair work. Pictured are (L) church warden Chris Springford and John Hardy. Picture: Ian Burt - Credit: Ian Burt

Almost a quarter of a million pounds will be spent on developing a 12th century church near Watton into a community hub.

St John's the Evangelist Church, in Ovington, has been awarded a £220,000 grant by the Heritage Lottery Fund after a successful proposal by members of the church and wider community.

Community group member John Hardy said that with church goers reducing, the proposal had been initiated two-and-a-half years ago with an ambition to develop the church into an attractive centre for the community and local schools to use.

'It's extremely exciting, because although there is a dwindling church congregation, a large percentage of the community wanted to see something done with the church site,' he said.

'We didn't expect it to happen, so it's extremely good. When we were summoned to Cambridge we were told we got it because of the inclusion of the community and wider public, and bringing them back to a historic building.'

At close to 900 years old, it is easy to understand why the church needs repairs. From substantial structural cracking in the towers to major drainage problems, the funding will go a long way to realising the Ovington community's ambition.

Included in the plans for the church are regular concerts, organ recitals and an area designated to community use.

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However, the revamp is not confined solely to the church structure, as students from the Iceni Academy will also design a website for the new centre.

According to Mr Hardy, they will be among some 2000 children to see the benefit of the refurbishment which he hopes will last hundreds of years.

'We're getting so many children involved and we'll be dealing with children across the complete school range,' he said.

'The church will be used as a temporary classroom for whoever comes on site and the schools are extremely excited about that, so it's good for everyone.'

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