Grade II* listed St Mary the Less church in Thetford to be resurrected by chapels expert after decade of dereliction

PUBLISHED: 07:57 01 August 2015

St Mary the Less Church in Thetford which has fallen into disrepair.
Photo:Sonya Duncan
For: EDP 
EDP pics © 2009
(01603) 772434

St Mary the Less Church in Thetford which has fallen into disrepair. Photo:Sonya Duncan Copy: For: EDP EDP pics © 2009 (01603) 772434


A derelict Grade II* listed church which has fallen into “gross disrepair” and is on a list of buildings at risk is set to be resurrected after being bought by a historic chapels expert.

Jenny Freeman has snapped up the 14th century St Mary the Less Church in Bury Road, Thetford, with the intention of turning it into flats.

The purchase signals the end of a long period of uncertainty for the church, which has changed hands several times in recent years.

It has also been listed on both English Heritage and Norfolk County Council’s Buildings at Risk list.

Dr Freeman said the church was in a sorry state, but was salvageable.

“It is in gross disrepair. It’s full of pigeons and many of the windows are badly damaged. It’s dreadful and I don’t know why it wasn’t protected earlier.

“But fortunately the roof seems to be reasonable and the building is actually very dry inside.

“The burial ground is very pretty with some beautiful plants and trees,” she said.

Dr Freeman is a council member of The Chapels Society, a group which helps to preserve places of worship.

She said St Mary the Less would be the 28th refurbishment project of its kind she had carried out.

“I’ve been working in the field for nearly all my adult life and I was looking for a project on the Buildings at Risk list.

“When I saw the church, I saw it had great character with the huge tower, but was so sad. I felt I could make something of it,” she said.

Dr Freeman is now working with Breckland Council’s conservation officers to draw up a planning application for the project.

She said she expected work to begin next year, pending approval of the plans.

The building has been derelict since 2004 when it was bought by Rod Collins for £124,000.

Mr Collins had been trying to offload the church for several years, during which time Breckland Council carried out emergency works on a large hole in the roof.

Stuart Wilson, secretary of the Thetford Society, said the society was delighted with Dr Freeman’s involvement.

What do you think of the refurbishment? Let us know by emailing Andrew Fitchett on

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