West Norfolk church supported by Prince Charles is hit by thieves

Walpole St Peter's church, near King's Lynn, has fundraising hampered as oil tank emptied

Fund raisers working hard for an appeal backed by the Prince of Wales have been dealt a blow to their efforts as thieves have struck.

The congregation of Walpole St Peter parish church are raising money for vital repairs and Prince Charles is patron of the appeal. Work is starting on the project this month.

But thieves have taken around 900 litres of heating oil from the site and more fund raising will have to be done to pay for the oil to be replaced.

'It's a real blow and very upsetting,' said church warden Michael Anstey.

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'They took the lot and it will now cost us to replace the oil at a time when we can least afford it,' he added.

A project to raise funds and repair the chancel roof at St Peter's church was launched last year and Prince Charles agreed to become patron and made a 'generous donation' to the cause.

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The chancel roof was last repaired around 200 years ago and further work will also be needed in the near future on the north aisle roof.

Grants have been made towards the cost, but parishioners have to raise �45,000 of the �220,000 bill themselves. The north aisle roof repairs are likely to add around �70,000 to the final cost.

St Peter's has been described as the Queen of Marshland because of its beautiful architecture and features and attracts a large number of visitors each year.

Mr Anstey said even if the heating oil was insured, it may not be worth making a claim as it would only result in higher premiums in the future which could be ill-afforded either.

The church was rebuilt after a great storm in 1337 when a tsunami followed an Icelandic volcano eruption and The Wash was, at that time, much further inland than it is now.

The 'pole' bit of the village name (and several others in the area) means 'pool'. Only the original tower remained after the storm and it stands to this day.

The Black Death followed and around 40pc of the population was wiped-out, but Walpole St Peter was one of the richest places in the most densely-populated part of the country and the rebuilt church was an indication of the wealth of East Anglia.

The Reformation of the 16th century ensured the 13th century tower would never be replaced, but by that time the magnificent St Peter's was in its full glory.

Fantastic carvings in wood and stone show the skills of the craftsmen employed to ensure the church was unrivalled and much of what was created more than 500 years ago is still on show today.

Fundraising continues this autumn with a concert featuring Music from the Shows by the King's Lynn Cantabile Choir on Saturday, October 20.

The concert begins at 7.15pm and tickets are �5, �2 for under-14s and �4.50 for senior citizens on 01945 780701.

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