Elderly people furious as crumbling church wall closure blocks walkway

Pauline Taylor, Linda Chilver, Dorothia McGregor, and Mike Ball

From left to right: Pauline Taylor, Linda Chilver, Dorothia McGregor, and Mike Ball. All are unhappy about the closure of their lifeline walkway on St Margaret's Alley. - Credit: Sarah Burgess

Elderly people living opposite a decaying church are furious the walkway outside their building has been blocked off for two months, with no sign of reopening any time soon.

Residents of Helgate Court, which flanks St Margaret's Alley in Norwich, have not been able to use the footpath separating their retirement complex from St Margaret's Church since May 24 after one of its walls was deemed "at risk of falling down".

A spokesperson for the charity running the church, Norwich Historic Churches Trust, said the closure was "in the interests of safety" — and that there are plans to re-build the crumbling wall in early 2022.  

St Margaret's Church in St Benedicts Street, Norwich
PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

St Margaret's Church in St Benedicts Street, Norwich PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY - Credit: Archant Norfolk

The trust, which cares for Grade 1 listed medieval churches for community use, said: "The repairs are in the planning phase, and details about time-frames will follow in due course.

"The flint wall facing St Margaret's Alley is stable, but there was enough risk of flint coming loose that closure of the alley was necessary."


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In the meantime those living in the over-55s accommodation must take lengthy detours to get to St Benedict's Street.

"It may seem pretty minor for fit and healthy people", 76-year-old resident Linda Chilver said, "but it's not for us who have walkers."

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Fellow resident Mike Ball, 76, was concerned the closure was done illegally because residents had received no notice.

The footpath has been closed for almost 2 months

The St Margaret's Alley footpath has been closed for almost 2 months - Credit: Sarah Burgess

But Norfolk County Council said the footpath was closed under emergency temporary traffic regulation after the Churches Trust told them the wall was at risk of falling down.

"We have asked the trust to complete the work as soon as possible so access can be re-established", their spokesman said. 

The initial six-month closure period the council granted to the charity ends in November.

But Mr Ball said despite claims the wall needs "urgent repair", nobody has touched it for two months.  

Pauline Taylor, 81, said it was a fire hazard as well as an inconvenience. 

The St Margaret's Alley footpath has been closed for almost 2 months

The St Margaret's Alley footpath has been closed for almost 2 months - Credit: Sarah Burgess

railings st margaret's church

The barricade has been secured to the railings, so in case of a fire elderly residents would not be able to get over it - Credit: Sarah Burgess

"If there's a fire, one of our escape routes has been completely cordoned off. It's dangerous."

Red's Convenience Store, stationed at the top of the alley, said the closure was affecting their customer base.

"They used to just nip up to us, and we'd nip down to them for deliveries", said owner Gail Watling. "It's very impractical to have it closed off completely.

"I really feel for the elderly people living in Helgate Court."

Gail Watling and her husband Ian run Reds Convenience Store. Photo: Gail Watling

Gail Watling and her husband Ian run Reds Convenience Store. Photo: Gail Watling - Credit: Archant


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