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Severely damaged church could be used as a community space and made more flexible

PUBLISHED: 09:29 15 September 2019 | UPDATED: 09:29 15 September 2019

Around 70 people attended a public meeting to discuss the future of St Mary's Church in Wimbotsham. Picture: Sarah Hussain

Around 70 people attended a public meeting to discuss the future of St Mary's Church in Wimbotsham. Picture: Sarah Hussain

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A church that was gutted by fire could be rebuilt and used as a community space.

Philip Wing (left) and Liz Wing speaking to members of the public about future of St Mary's Church. Picture: Sarah HussainPhilip Wing (left) and Liz Wing speaking to members of the public about future of St Mary's Church. Picture: Sarah Hussain

A church that was gutted by fire could be rebuilt and used as a community space.

St Mary's Church in Wimbotsham, near Downham Market, was gutted by a fire that destroyed the interior and roof of the building at the start of September.

A public meeting held at Wimbotsham Village Hall on Saturday, September 14 discussed possible plans to rebuild the church and make it more usable for the community.

Around 70 people attended, along with members of the church parish council, church warden Liz Wing and the church rector.

Around 70 people attended a public meeting to discuss the future of St Mary's Church in Wimbotsham. Picture: Sarah HussainAround 70 people attended a public meeting to discuss the future of St Mary's Church in Wimbotsham. Picture: Sarah Hussain

The meeting was opened by rector Reverend Dr David Karoon, who asked members of the public "to pause for a moment of stillness".

Speaking to the public, the Rev Karoon said: "We meet for two primary reasons, first to give you what little information we have. The second is to give you in the community an opportunity to ask any questions you may have. I must warn you it's still in the early stages of investigation."

The 12th century church has been cordoned off for safety purposes while site investigations continue.

The church warden said it could take four to five weeks before the potential cause of the fire is known.

Fire has gutted the church at Wimbotsham, near Downham Market  Picture: Chris BishopFire has gutted the church at Wimbotsham, near Downham Market Picture: Chris Bishop

The medieval church, which was fully insured, could be rebuilt as a more modern building, with a kitchen and toilets to make it more of a community space.

Mrs Wing said: "The policy is for rebuilding, so it will be rebuilt as long as it is structurally safe."

A member of the public asked whether it could be rebuilt into a village hall, which Mrs Wing said was something "the village will decide".

She added: "We want the space to be usable by the whole community, not just for a Sunday morning service.

Firefighters at the scene of the blaze which has gutted the historic church at Wimbotsham, near Downham Market  Picture: Chris BishopFirefighters at the scene of the blaze which has gutted the historic church at Wimbotsham, near Downham Market Picture: Chris Bishop

"We're not doing it for us but for generations to come, so that they have a space that is comfortable for them."

Speaking after the meeting, Rev Karoon said: "I think what the Diocese of Ely wants is more of a flexible space, so many of our rural churches are so old, without modern heating and facilities. It's difficult, you need these facilities, it's almost impossible without it for young families.

"The Diocese is looking at modernising the building to make it more flexible for worship and the community.

"We need a facility that suits people in this day and age."

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