Norfolk church set to hold service for first time in 30 years

The restoration of a South Norfolk church will take a significant step when it is officially brought out of redundancy.

Since the 1980s, historic Grade I listed Forncett St Mary church has stood redundant, but on Wednesday the Rt Rev Alan Winton, the Bishop of Thetford, will be leading a service to celebrate the reopening of the church following an extensive restoration project by a local group.

The Friends of Forncett St Mary Church have so far spent �50,000 restoring windows and providing a new vestry with a parish office, as well as installing a new heating system so the church can be reopened to the public.

However, the fundraising group has also applied to English Heritage for a �185,000 grant to carry out further repairs to the windows, the tower and the stonework.

Graham Prior, project co-ordinator for the Friends group, said having the church back in public use would increase the chances of securing the English Heritage funding.

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He added that it was unlikely there would be regular Sunday services, but the church would be open for some religious services and community events.

He said: 'I think people do appreciate that it has come back into use.

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'Having it back in working order ensures its future again, especially as there were rumours it was going to be sold for craft or industrial use or even to make way for holiday homes.'

The Friends group has received council support, but has also raised money through concerts, including one by jazz group DixieMix.

In September, the church will be holding its first wedding service since being shut by the Diocese of Norwich in 1980 due to dwindling attendances.

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