Plan to bring south Norfolk church out of redundancy
A 13th century south Norfolk church could soon be used again for weddings, baptisms and funerals after an application was made to bring it out of redundancy.
The historic Forncett St Mary Church has been brought back to life by local residents as a community facility after it was closed and boarded-up in the 1980s.
But officials behind the restoration of the village church, near Long Stratton, hope that they will be more successful with funding bids after making an application to remove its redundancy status.
The Grade I listed building already has the backing of the Diocese of Norwich and will become a daughter church of the neighbouring Forncett St Peter Church. However, the change of status is awaiting confirmation from the Church Commissioners before it becomes official.
Graham Prior, chairman of the Friends of Forncett St Mary Church, who began four years ago to restore the redundant church with his wife May, said: 'Not many churches come out of redundancy, it is normally the other way round.'
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'Once we are out of redundancy we can do everything here, but we are not planning to have regular Sunday services and we want the church to be used for community events. Coming out of redundancy will not make a big difference to what we use the church for, but it will make grant funding slightly easier.'
The friends group is looking to raise �30,000 to completed the restoration of four windows in the church nave. However, despite tight budgets, the group has managed to repair the windows in the chancel, vestry and tower and have installed a new altar, flooring and a heating system. Work is also underway to turn the vestry into an office space.
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The church was closed by the diocese in the 80s because of a dwindling congregation and it is believed that the last burial was in 1986 and the last wedding was held at the church in the 1970s.
The building has hosted various fundraising events including craft fairs, fashion shows, concerts, and a carols by candlelight since it was reopened for the local community and plans are in the pipeline for a music festival next September. It is currently permitted to have six religious services a year.
The church is also hosting an exhibition on the holocaust after Mr Prior, his daughter Sarah, and friend Mike Eastaff visited the main concentration camps in Europe last year. The exhibition will be open over the next month.