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Repair plans first step in converting medieval church into houses

PUBLISHED: 15:05 25 February 2019

St Mary the Less Church in Thetford, pictured here in 2015. Picture: Matthew Usher.

St Mary the Less Church in Thetford, pictured here in 2015. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© ARCHANT NORFOLK 2015

Plans to rescue a crumbling Grade II* church with potential links to the Saxon era which will lead to it being converted into housing have been submitted.

Inside St Mary the Less in 2015. Picture: Matthew Usher.Inside St Mary the Less in 2015. Picture: Matthew Usher.

The St Mary the Less church on Bury Road, Thetford, has suffered from disrepair and dereliction over recent years but is now on the verge of getting the renovation and repairs it needs.

Calls for companies to undertake the work to repair the 14th century church which will cost around £350,000 were made in January, with plans now submitted to Breckland District Council.

The work is part of a larger project by Dr Jennifer Freeman, who owns the site, to convert the church into housing.

She said: “I am very pleased that the plans for the repair of the tower, which have been drawn up by my architects Caroe in Cambridge, have been submitted.

St Mary the Less Church on Bury Road, Thetford, pictured in early 2019. Work could start in April to repair it if plans are given permission. Picture: Conor MatchettSt Mary the Less Church on Bury Road, Thetford, pictured in early 2019. Work could start in April to repair it if plans are given permission. Picture: Conor Matchett

“It was in a terrible condition when we got successfully up the top to examine the top of the tower. There is a lot of crumbling material which essentially turns to dust but it is not beyond repair.”

Work to repair the church, assuming planning permission is given, could start as soon as April, with proposals outlining work to rebuild the church tower’s roof using natural slate and lead, repair falling masonry, and build a new floor inside the church.

Dr Freeman added: “I have been fortunate in receiving a good grant from Historic England and I hope the work will finally start in April.

“I am thrilled that we have got this for it has taken a very long time but we are on the brink of starting the work.”

The church will in the future be converted into five houses, with one in the tower and four others within the walls of the church.

It will see the building, one of only three medieval churches now left in Thetford alongside St Peter’s and St Cuthbert’s, saved for future generations.

Dr Freeman said: “I am so pleased that we managed to stave off further decay to the rest of the building because we have plans for a residential conversion of the church into five houses.

“The church is to be divided vertically. There will be on house in the tower, another in the east of the church and there will be two houses on the north side and then one that is roughly in the middle.

“We are going to retain what is left of the very fine stained glass for the building.”



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