Grant of £70,000 lottery cash to celebrate Norwich’s medieval churches with ‘Flintspiration’ festival
Norwich once had a church for every week of the year, the saying goes.
In fact, it actually had 58 - and today, though many were lost during 16th century religious turmoil and destroyed in wartime air raids, the city still boasts more medieval churches than in any other city north of the Alps.
Now, a group which preserves many of the remaining 31 churches has been given almost £70,000 in lottery funding to launch a festival celebrating the medieval places of worship.
The Norwich Historic Churches Trust (NHCT), which was set up in 1973 and is the landlord of 18 of the churches, will use the £68,400 awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund to set up Flintspiration, a weekend of activities and events encouraging people to explore the religious buildings.
Neil Blunt, vice-chairman of NHCT and project director of Flintspiration, which takes it name from the flint used to build most of the region’s churches, said the weekend would reflect on their historic role in the city and their importance as heritage assets, places of worship and community venues today.
He said: “We are thrilled to receive this support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, which will help us celebrate Norwich’s fascinating medieval past.
“Today Norwich has more medieval churches than any other city north of the Alps, an exceptional legacy and outstanding setting for the festival.
“We are planning a varied programme of events and hope to have something for everyone to enjoy and explore, whether they are visiting a church for the first or fiftieth time.”
The event, which will run from Saturday, April 29 to Monday, May 1 next year, will include performances, guided walks, church trails and child-friendly fun.
The NHCT will work with the University of East Anglia and Norwich City Council, along with a range of other partners, on the scheme.
More details will be announced early next year.
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New uses for historic churches
Many of the city’s medieval churches have been given new leases of life - and, in fact, just a handful are now used for worship.
Several house cafés, art galleries and studios, while a handful have slightly more unusual uses.
Earlier this year, the Oak Circus Centre turned the St Michael Coslany church, on Oak Street, into a school for acrobats.
Up until 2011 the building had been used as science museum the Inspire Discovery Centre.
Now, it is where performers rehearse touring shows, offer evening classes for adults and children and stage public performances.
A stonemason’s training lodge is also at home in St Clement’s Church on Colegate, where lessons and tips spanning 900 years is passed on from master to mason.
Many churches are now home to arts venues, including St James the Less, on Whitefriars, which has become one of the city’s best-known churches thanks in part to its prominent location - next to the inner ring road - but also because it has housed the Norwich Puppet Theatre since the 1980s.
The 14th-century St Swithin’s church is also home to the Norwich Arts Centre, while Thalia Theatre Company is housed in St Saviour’s church on nearby Magdalen Street.
St Peter Hungate, on Princes Street, is a centre for medieval art, while St Etheldreda Church, on King Street, is used as a studio for artists.
A treasure trove of antiques, collectables, vintage and retro items can be found at St Gregory’s Antiques and Collectables, which is based at St Gregory’s on Pottergate.
Exhibitions are also held at both St Margaret’s on St Benedict’s Street and St Mary Coslany, on St Mary’s Plain.
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