Churches celebrate £30,000 grants for repairs and extensions

Work starts on North Walsham church tower.Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Work starts on North Walsham church tower.Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A pot of £30,000 will help three churches push forward with much-needed restoration plans.

St John the Baptist Church in Harleston

St John the Baptist Church in Harleston - Credit: Archant

Funding from the National Churches Trust has been awarded to St John the Baptist Church in Harleston, near Diss; All Saints in Hemblington, near Blofield Heath; and St Nicholas' in North Walsham. The money will help pay for new facilities such as kitchens and accessible toilets and for structural repairs.

In rural Hemblington, between Norwich and Great Yarmouth, the £10,000 grant will help fund a project to provide level access into the church and an extension for a disabled toilet, a kitchenette and a small heritage area.

Since May 2012 the church has increased its opening hours to every day of the week between 9am and 5pm, with visitor numbers increasing as a result.

Supporters said in a statement that the new facilities would open the small parish church to more local groups and help those travelling long distances to weddings, baptisms and funerals.

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'It will make the church a place to linger rather than to rush away from at the end of services and events, strengthening friendship between church and community members,' they said.

In Harleston, £10,000 will help St John the Baptist Church install toilets – an addition that will transform the church into a community resource, allowing it to be permanently used as a foodbank for families in need, by the Choral Society for rehearsals, for social events and for Mothers' Union meetings.

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Meanwhile, campaigners raising money for North Walsham's St Nicholas' Church are celebrating the £10,000 windfall which will see the repairs completed in the new year.

Work began last year to repair the 14th-century tower, bellcote, stonework and west window, while a £210,000 fundraising effort began.

The latest grant from the National Churches Trust brings the total up to the target, and means the work should be complete by mid January.

North Walsham vicar the Rev Paul Cubitt said the grant had been unexpected. 'It was just brilliant to get the money,' he added. 'And full credit goes to the church wardens who took the project on. The tower was in a dreadful state and was an accident just waiting to happen.'

The 85-ft tower in the very heart of the town, had been fenced off since 2011 after large flints began to fall from it.

Originally 147ft tall, it has been in a state of ruin since it partially collapsed in 1724. There were further falls in 1835 and 1836.

Damp in the tower had led to vegetation growing in the stone, but the new work will mean moisture can escape.

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