St Mary’s Parish Church in Watton to become community hub after �500,000 refurbishment

A Watton church is undergoing a �500,000 refurbishment to bring it up to the 21st century as well as return it to its original purpose.

St Mary's Parish Church in Church Road is believed to have been built in the reign of Henry I, between 1100 and 1135, or during the reign of Henry II, between 1154 and 1189.

Originally dedicated to St Giles, it was re-dedicated to St Mary in the early 15th century and the church was mostly extended during the 19th century.

Rev Geoff Garrett said: 'The pews and woodwork underneath were rotting and the floors were collapsing due to dry rot and wet rot. There was a real need to refurbish the church.

'The church inside is a strange shape so people couldn't see what was happening at the altar and you couldn't see what was happening at the other end of the church. We have brought everything forward so the church feels like more of a community.


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'The renovation makes the building what it was originally designed to do 800 or 900 years ago - to be a community building.'

As well as churchgoers other local groups will be able to use the revamped space, which is why portable wooden seats will be replacing the pews.

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The money for the refurbishment was received through grants and donations from the congregation and local community.

Work started in September and is due to finish this month in preparation for an open weekend on April 21 and 22 and a service by the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, on April 22 at 6.30pm.

As well as the replacing the drainage system, the painted chancel dating back to about 1887 has been restored and features that were covered up by the Victorians have been exposed.

A priests door, low window and stone window surround were discovered in the chancel.

'We have tried to restore and repair the old architecture but also enhance it,' added Mr Garrett, who said parts of the church were like a Victorian recycling centre.

Alongside the older, more traditional materials the church will also be fitted with a new light system, a fixed projector, screen and monitors.

Mr Garrett said: 'The whole church is multi-purpose. The parishioners are excited about moving back into the church - they cannot wait.'

For more information about using the church office on 01953 881252, Mr Garrett on 01953 881439 or visit www.stmaryswatton.org

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