Eye church pursues concerts plan

One of the region's most imposing churches could become a leading international venue for organ recitals - if £300,000 is raised to fulfil ambitious plans.

One of the region's most imposing churches could become an international venue for organ recitals, if £300,000 can be raised to fulfil the ambitious plans.

A new organ - built by an widely-acknowledged master of the craft - will play a key role in attracting leading players.

St Peter and St Paul's Church dominates the north Suffolk town of Eye. A favourite with photographers in the region, it could soon also attract music-lovers to hear organists of national and international standing

Since 2002, the parochial church council has been debating how the church, led by Father Andrew Mitcham, should evolve into the 21st century. Following discussion with English Heritage, architects and its diocese, the council has now approved a wide-ranging plan.

Regular worshippers can look forward to a more welcoming environment, with a meeting room created from the current vestry and the building of two toilets.

The organ will be dismantled and sold and a new, demountable, mezzanine floor built above the toilets to hold its new organ.

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Bought recently from a church in Leeds, it was created by the celebrated 19th century organ builder James Jepson Binns, whose greatest organ took pride of place in St Nicholas Church, Yarmouth, until it was destroyed during the second world war.

It is hoped that the new organ's more prominent position will make it more effective in leading congregations, as well as attracting top players. Church leaders hope the allure of a Binns organ will prove irresistible to the world's top organists.

Other plans for the future include creating disabled access and improving the baptistry area, proposals to relocate the church shop and possible development of the south porch for use by the Sunday school.

If these are carried out, the church will then look at undertaking work on the church bells, bringing in new lighting and heating, and researching the medieval doom painting found in the chapel arch.

A development appeal committee has been set up under the stewardship of county councillor Charles Michell and the group is working to bring in a high profile patron in the drive to raise £300,000 to pay for the first stage.

Yesterday Mr Mitchell said: "When the work is done, the church will be able to host concerts and will become a much more comfortable place to worship in and to visit.

"It's an ambitious plan but there are only two to three Binns organs in the country and they are very sought after. It will bring a lot of people into Eye and everyone associated with the church will benefit."