Circus group's joy as roof collapse church is saved from closure

Oak Circus Centre at St Michael Coslany in Norwich

Artists from the Oak Circus Centre perform in the newly restored St Michael Coslany Church, Norwich - Credit: Stella Fitzgerald/Historic England Archive

A medieval church which faced closure due to a collapsing roof has been saved - securing the future of the circus company which calls it home.

Part of the roof at the Grade I listed church of St Michael Coslany fell down early last year and heritage bosses were so concerned that they placed it on a register of buildings at risk.

Church of St Michael Coslany in Norwich

The newly repaired and restored Church of St Michael Coslany in Norwich Patricia Payne/Historic England Archive - Credit: Patricia Payne/Historic England Archive

But vital repair and restoration work on the church, between Oak Street and Duke Street in Norwich, has been done, thanks to a Historic England grant of more than £170,000.

And that means it can remain the home of the Oak Circus Centre, founded by the Lost In Translation company and based there since 2016.

St Michael Coslany in Norwich

Artists from the Oak Circus Centre in the newly repaired and restored Church of St Michael Coslany, Norwich - Credit: Stella Fitzgerald/Historic England Archive

Annabel Carberry, from Oak Circus Centre, which offers youth and adult classes, education programmes and events, said: “After hearing urgent building works were needed, we thought we were going to have to move out, which may have involved one or both companies either closing down or moving out of the region.

"Despite the challenges for everyone involved, it has been a real blessing to be able to continue our work over the last year in the reduced space.

"The work looks amazing and we just can't wait to expand back to the whole building and be working at full capacity once more.

"We're happy to be flipping and flying about in this incredible building.”

Annabel Carberry

Annabel Carberry, from Oak Circus Centre - Credit: Denise Bradley

The church closed as a place of worship in 1971 and is in the care of the Norwich Historic Churches Trust.

The interior of St Michael Coslany under repair

The interior of St Michael Coslany under repair - Credit: Sandra Martins/ Norwich Historic Churches Trust

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The roof, which probably dates to around 1500, has been repaired, strengthened and protected from the elements, while the south west nave window was removed and re-leaded.

St Michael Coslany Church in Norwich

Neil Forkes, director of Forkes Stained Glass Ltd, putting the finishing touches to the repair of the the south nave west window at St Michael Coslany Church in Norwich - Credit: Neil Forkes

Domenico D’Alessandro, East of England architect/surveyor for Historic England, described the building as "the grandest of the churches in north Norwich".

St Michael Coslany in Norwich

The newly repaired roof in the Church of St Michael Coslany, Norwich - Credit: Patricia Payne/Historic England Archive

Chris Armstrong, vice chair of Norwich Historic Churches Trust, said the organisation was delighted the Historic England funding had allowed it to get the work done.

Dating to the 14th century, the church has previously been used as a scenery store for the city's puppet theatre, as a martial arts gym and as the Inspire Science Discovery Centre.