Refurbishment project under way at St Peter’s Church in Swainsthorpe

Work has begun on an ambitious revamp to boost community facilities at a church near Norwich.

For three years, people in Swainsthorpe have been planning and fundraising for the refurbishment of St Peter's Church so it can be used for a wider range of community activities, and work has now started on the �75,000 first phase which is due to be finished by December.

It is being funded by a �25,000 grant from Lafarge Aggregates, �10,000 from South Norfolk Council, �10,000 from Norfolk Rural Community Council, various other grants and local fundraising.

David Chapman, Swainsthorpe Community Charity Trust chairman, said: 'Swainsthorpe does not have a village hall, a shop, or any other community facility, and we have tended to use the church as not only a place of worship but also the focal point in the village. The church is the heart of the community but its present form is too restrictive and it lacks the basic facilities of toilets, a kitchen, warmth and comfort, and so the so the charity trust, the Parochial Church Council and Swainsthorpe Parish Council have been working together to plan the refurbishment.'

Phase one involves replacing the church's pews with moveable chairs to create a more flexible space for everything from music events to keep fit classes. Toilet and kitchen facilities are being put in, the heating is being upgraded, and a sound system is being added for the hard of hearing.

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The church tower is also undergoing a �110,000 restoration programme funded by English Heritage, Norfolk Churches Trust, and National Churches Trust grants as well as local fundraising.

'The church dates from the year 900 and at various times in its life it has been altered and refurbished, and we are just continuing that.

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'It is a wonderful story and we have to pay tribute to the local community – especially the Project Ideas Group –who have really got behind the project. It is going to be an absolutely magnificent facility for Swainsthorpe.'

While work takes place, church services are being held at alternative locations including the village green and in the church porch. The second refurbishment phase will be a �150,000 extension to include a new community room.

To donate funds to the project, call Mr Chapman on 01508 470519.

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