�1.4m boost for Norfolk churches

Hayley MaceChurches in need of repair in Norfolk have been given a financial boost - but a rallying cry was made for more to be done to protect the region's precious religious buildings.Hayley Mace

Churches in need of repair in Norfolk have been given a financial boost - but a rallying cry was made for more to be done to protect the region's precious religious buildings.

As English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund yesterday announced nearly �1.4m is being given to churches and chapels in Norfolk and north Suffolk to help fund repairs, church leaders called for local communities to support their historic buildings.

Norfolk has more than 600 medieval churches - the highest concentration anywhere in the world.

Eleven Norfolk churches and two in north Suffolk are set to benefit from the latest round of grants, but the amount of money needed to maintain the buildings grows year on year and church officials say more cash needs to be found to keep them open and safe for future generations.

Norfolk Churches Trust secretary Malcolm Fisher said although the latest grants would go a long way towards getting repair work under way at local churches, there was not enough cash available for all of the schemes which needed it.

He said: 'There is certainly not enough funding available for churches. It's a ridiculous situation where �10m a year comes from the government through English Heritage for church restoration across the whole country - Norfolk could easily swallow up that whole amount year on year.

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'In this day and age, that amount of money is nothing. When substantial work needs doing on a medieval church, it is always going to cost an amount which is way beyond the ability of local fundraising.'

One of the buildings awarded funding yesterday was St Margaret's Church at Hopton, near Great Yarmouth, which is in line for an �84,000 boost to pay for re-roofing work and drainage and gutter repairs.

The Rev Roger Key said: 'Without these grants, churches and historic buildings across the country would be lost. These grants are brilliant, but I would really like to see the amount of money available double in size, if not more.

'For a little congregation like ours, the commitment shown to the scheme has been tremendous as we have been finding some money ourselves. Our philosophy is that we have to work today to enjoy the benefits in the future. The only alternative is to let the place go to rack and ruin, and we don't want that.'

The Evening News has reported how St Stephen's Church in Rampant Horse Street in Norwich was forced to close its doors for major structural repairs after a large crack appeared in its east wall.

It needs to raise �85,000 to restore a medieval stained glass window.

Are you trying to raise money for a church restoration scheme? Call Evening News reporter Kim Briscoe on 01603 772419 or email kim.briscoe@archant.co.uk

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