Entrance to historic church restored

CELIA WIGG The picturesque entrance to an historic Suffolk church has been restored to its former glory by the wife of a former parish priest.

CELIA WIGG

The picturesque entrance to an historic Suffolk church has been restored to its former glory by the wife of a former parish priest.

The project was inspired by 87-year-old Isabel Draper, whose late husband John was the vicar of Hoxne from 1975 to 1984.

After his death, she moved back to the village near Eye and has now given the parish a special Christmas gift by paying for the floor of the Victorian lychgate to be replaced. The orginal tiles were 150 years old and had become so weathered and worn that many had completely disintegrated.

Now the gate is once again in pristine condition, the entrance way has also been upgraded by improving the drainage and lowering existing steps to make it accessible to people in wheelchairs.

"We both fell in love with Hoxne when we first came to live here. We had been to several other parishes and it was the best time we ever had. Everyone was so helpful and grateful for things which you don't always get I'm afraid," Mrs Draper recalled.

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"I used to come and look at the lychgate, and it always worried me that the tiles were getting broken. And when my husband's funeral was held here I thought how awful it looks for people walking through, and seeing it like that.

"It has been restored just in time for Christmas which is lovely, so it's my Christmas present to the church!"

Mrs Draper had suggested the project to former churchwarden John Ball about four years ago. They had to get permission from the diocese, and approval from national conservation groups including English Heritage and the Victorian Society before plans could be drawn up.

Local firm Permabuild, of neighbouring Denham, was then commissioned to do the work.

Mr Ball said: "The friends of the church helped pay for the tiles, and there was another bequest from Daphne Anderson, but the bulk of the money will be paid by Mrs Draper. Without her enthusiasm the project wouldn't have happened. Isabel was the driving force."