Photographer’s exploration reveals secrets of derelict Thetford church

St Mary the Less Church in Thetford. Picture: Matthew Usher.

St Mary the Less Church in Thetford. Picture: Matthew Usher.

A photographer with a love for derelict buildings has helped put a 14th century Norfolk church on the map after sneaking into its grounds.

UK Uncovered went to explore St Mary the Less church in Thetford. Picture by Lee Lewis.

UK Uncovered went to explore St Mary the Less church in Thetford. Picture by Lee Lewis. - Credit: Archant

The church of St Mary the Less, in Thetford, had lain derelict for more than a decade before it was purchased by chapels expert Jenny Freeman last year.

The Grade II-listed church in Bury Road is listed on both English Heritage and Norfolk County Council's Buildings at Risk list.

But its forlorn appearance attracted a photographer from UK Uncovered, a group which explores heritage and 'lost' sites around the country, who took an illicit tour of the church and its burial ground and posted his findings on Facebook.

The photographs and video have been seen by more than 9,000 people and elicited responses from residents about the church's state.

Dr Freeman, who had been unaware of UK Uncovered's visit to the church, said there had recently been more public access to the burial grounds while she 'put together a scheme' for its conversion, which she has been negotiating with Breckland Council.

'What would really worry me is if people started doing damage to the property. There have been problems with drug users in the past in the burial grounds and problems with vandalism.

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'I'm going for a meeting there with English Heritage this month, but I will put in an extra trip now to look at the church.

'The building is very heavily secured, but it is always possible for people to get in if they are determined. There are one or two local people who have promised to keep an eye on it for me,' she said.

Lee Lewis, UK Uncovered team leader, said he had gone to explore the church grounds after being asked to do so by some local residents, but said it had been a building of interest to him before. He added that the pictures had attracted interest from people in the field of church conservation.

The photographer from Brandon, whose exploration of Thetford's former Cottage Hospital also went viral, describes himself as 'an explorer, not a historian'.

What are your favourite secret places in Thetford? Email bethany.whymark@archant.co.uk.

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