Churches reopen to the public
JON WELCH Historic city churches that have long been out-of-bounds to the public are to open to visitors for the first time in years, thanks to a new scheme. Norwich has 31 surviving medieval churches - more than any other city in northern Europe - and a newly-appointed churches ranger will be opening up four of them to visitors during the summer months.
Historic city churches that have long been out-of-bounds to the public are to open to visitors for the first time in years, thanks to a new scheme.
Norwich has 31 surviving medieval churches - more than any other city in northern Europe - and a newly-appointed churches ranger will be opening up four of them to visitors during the summer months.
Owen Thompson, an archaeology lecturer at Norwich City College with a special interest in churches, has been appointed in a joint initiative by the Churches Conservation Trust, Norwich Historic Churches Trust and Norwich Heart (Heritage, Economic and Regeneration Trust).
He will open the churches of St Andrew, St Peter Hungate, St Gregory and St Laurence to visitors on a rotational basis, and will be on hand to deal with any queries from visitors and help bring the churches' history to life, as well as keeping an eye on their security.
“Some people want to come and have a quick look round; some want to have a quiet sit down,” said Mr Thompson.
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“I will be unobtrusive. I'm not there to guide people round but I can answer questions if people want.”
Although St Andrew's is still a working church with a congregation, it is currently closed to the public for much of the week. Mr Thompson's appointment will enable its opening hours to be extended.
The Rev Martin Young, vicar of St Andrew's, said: “We're thrilled. We love to have people come through the door and we always give them a warm welcome.
“We're hoping people will look beyond the buildings to what the buildings are pointing to, which is Jesus Christ.”
The other three churches are redundant and have not been regularly open to visitors for years.
An exhibition on Norwich's historic churches has been put on display at St John Maddermarket Church, where leaflets and a map showing the other historic churches will be available.
It has been put together by heritage consultant Anne Mason and explores 15 of the churches, highlighting beautiful and unique features in each.
A website has also been launched giving details of the city's historic churches. The site was built and written by volunteers Michael and Frances Holmes, the culmination of four months' work.
The churches project has been funded to the tune of £9,000 by Eeda, the East of England Development Agency.
Kate Weaver, of the Churches Conservation Trust, said: “The project aims to improve access to the Norwich churches, be they still in use or ones looked after by Norwich Historic Churches Trust or my trust. People really do value their churches.”
Sophie Cabot, engagement manager for Norwich Heart, said: “We're very fortunate in Norwich to have such a wealth of medieval churches.
“At the Heritage Open Weekend each year, the city is completely teeming with people going to visit churches and other buildings.
“Sometimes we get 600 people visiting one church. People want to see inside them and we're following up on that.”
Fore further details, visit the website www.norwichchurches.co.uk