Walpole church facing closure

A Suffolk church that has been the home to worshippers since the 12th century could be facing closure.

St Mary's Church, in Walpole, is one of 11 under The Blyth Team Ministry, but with a small congregation and few services, its future is now in question.

Later this month a public meeting will be held to discuss what is to happen to the church and all parishioners are being invited to attend, with closure a possibility.

Rev Edward Rennard, team rector, said: 'Blyth Valley has 11 churches all with easy travelling distance of each other and it is going to be difficult to save 11 churches into future. At the moment very few worship there so it might be with extreme regret that we might have to let it go.'

Services are not regularly taking place at the church in the centre of the village, near Halesworth, however a Christmas service did take place.

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Mr Rennard said: 'It was quite popular at Christmas with a lot of children, but there is not much evidence of a great will to keep it going as far as I can see from worshippers.'

It is one of the Blyth Team family of churches, that also includes Blyford, Bramfield, Chediston, Halesworth, Holton, Linstead, Spexhall, Thorington, Wenhaston and Wissett.

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Mr Rennard said: 'In The Blyth Team Ministry numbers are going up but it is still difficult to argue for 11 churches within a short drive of one another.'

He added that they were still very concerned to keep a presence in each of the villages, with rectors and vicars there for baptisms and weddings for the local people.

St Mary's Church, in Walpole, is a 12th century building. During the 1870s the tower and spire were remodelled, and the spire needed more work in 1962.

There was once five bells but only one remains with the date 1786.

A parish census of 1831 showed 658 people living there, but today it is closer to 200.

The churchyard features two war graves from 1918 and 1919, but was closed to burials in 1990.

The often shared vicars and combined with other parishes, before being brought into the Halesworth Team Benefice in 1989.

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