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'It's a real quandary' - villagers debate future of church gutted by fire

PUBLISHED: 13:16 10 September 2019 | UPDATED: 13:25 10 September 2019

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

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

Archant

A community left devastated by a church fire is to come together to debate its future.

Fire destroys most of St Mary's Church in Wimbotsham.    Byline: Sonya Duncan
Copyright: Archant 2019Fire destroys most of St Mary's Church in Wimbotsham. Byline: Sonya Duncan Copyright: Archant 2019

Discussions will take place later this week about the future of St Mary's Church in Wimbotsham, following a fire that destroyed the interior and roof of the building.

The Diocese of Ely, Historic England, Norfolk Churches Trust and the people of Wimbotsham will discuss what would be the best use of the church.

With a meeting set to take place on Saturday, September 14 at the Wimbotsham village hall, the community has suggested what should be done with the church.

Sheila Gove, who has lived in Wimbotsham for 11 years, said: "I think it's a terrible shame, it's stood there for so long. I used to go up there to sit quietly, so I'm hoping it will be rebuilt. I know it won't be the same but I would hope they could do something with it.

"If I couldn't get to someone's funeral I would go to the church to sit there quietly and think of them.

"I don't think it will be a good place for a village hall, they would have to do a lot to make a car park and to make it suitable for people to use it."

Stuart Lacy married his wife at St Mary's Church and has lived in Wimbotsham for five years.

Mr Lacy said: "Personally I think there's plenty of churches here and I think it would be best used as another public space as we're quite limited with the village hall. The church is only used once every month and the cost will be astronomical."

More than 50 firefighters tackled the blaze that tore through the medieval church near Downham Market.

MORE: Cause of church blaze which destroyed 17th century altar is investigated.

One Wimbotsham villager, who did not want to be named, said: "It's a real quandary, congregations are dwindling and people only use it for marriages, funerals or baptisms.

"We all expect it to be there but are we willing to support it?"

Alan Rix, retired and living in Downham Market, said: "I prefer it to be restored as a church, they already have a village hall.

"The church gives the village a certain degree of dignity.

"I used to visit the church occasionally for services so I would hope it would be restored as a church. But I'm not entitled to have a strong view on the subject."

Richard Lawson, from Downham Market, said: "It was peaceful, you could really feel the peace of God in there. It was open 24 hours a day and I used to go sit in there.

"It needs to be kept as a Christian premises and recognised as such as we're losing our identity. It's horrendous to see it in the state it is in."

The meeting will take place at 3pm to discuss the condition of the building and to outline the next steps.

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