Greek church celebrates timely milestone in ten year refurbishment plan
12:07 08 January 2014
Archant Norfolk © 2014
A landmark church at the heart of a Great Yarmouth community is “ticking” again thanks to the towering efforts of its supporters.
St Spyridon’s was close to slipping beyond repair when the Greek orthodox congregation that worships there decided to press ahead with a £1m overhaul.
Now the huge commitment of everyone involved is paying dividends with a raft of improvements.
Treasurer of the group behind the scheme, Peter Ioannou, said he was delighted with what had been achieved so far, particularly with the clock – working now for the first time in at least 50 years.
He hailed the efforts of the church community for helping to achieve phase one of a ten year restoration.
The £139,000 project had involved repairs to the tower which had been completely re-roofed and re-modelled inside to deter pigeons and seagulls.
Mr Ioannou said the Grade II listed building, in an exposed spot on St Peter’s Road, had suffered from the effects of sand-blasting winds, which had eaten away at stonework making parts of the structure unsafe and a threat to public safety.
Most of the money was grant funded by English Heritage, with the local community having to prove its support by raising 20pc of the cost too.
And seeing little point in a restored church tower with a broken clock, they stretched themselves to raise an extra £9,000 to have the timepiece repaired and given a new automatic mechanism.
The church’s guardians had taken a moment to stand back and applaud the work carried out over the past six months, but there was little time to rest on their laurels with a £175,000 second phase to prepare for. Mr Ioannou said it was a big achievement for a small community of just 600 people.
“It makes us feel very proud,” he said. “Now we are wiser and more determined, having established good relationships with the right people, to see it finished over the next nine years. We have something to show everybody now and that helps to take things forward.”
Phase two will involve re-roofing the main building and repairs to some of the windows, hopefully starting at the end of this year. Jimmy Demetriou, vice chairman, said there were also good economic reasons for the repairs because the building, although magnificent, was difficult to heat, which affected the environment for worshippers. A raft of fund-raising is planned, with a dinner/dance at the Ocean Room, Gorleston, on March 22, and organisers are hoping to broaden interest in the appeal to townsfolk and heritage buffs in general.
The church was built in the 1830s as St Peter’s, but fell out of use in the 1960s when it was taken over by the Greek community. The building also houses a community hall and Greek school. It celebrates 50 years as a Greek orthodox church in 2015.
To find out more about the project or to make a donation contact Mr Ioannou on 01493 842866 or 07899 950587. Cheques to be made payable to St Spyridon’s Church.