Extension plans at historic Norwich church

An historic parish church is set to be extended in the hope of becoming a hub of the community.

Work is set to start on a �300,000 extension at St Mary's Church in Low Road, Hellesdon, at the end of this year or early 2011. Church leaders have been fundraising for the project for more than a decade and now have enough money to go ahead with the scheme.

The extension will include toilets, disabled-friendly facilities, a small kitchen and meeting rooms. At the moment, there are no toilets in the church and parishioners have had to use the facilities in the nearby parish hall.

Externally it will be in keeping with the rest of the building and will address a number of key needs, including space for meetings and Sunday School activities and a refreshment area.

Rev Enid Jones-Blackett, chairman of the Friends of St Mary's Church, said: 'There is a desperate need for these facilities which we do not have at the moment. We want to open St Mary's more extensively to the community. We are limited at the moment by just having the church area.

'We want to be open not just for the worshipping community, but the community at large.'

There has been a church on the site since before Domesday and the majority of the building, including its last extension, dates from the 14th century.

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A large part of the funds has been raised by the Friends of St Mary's Church through concerts and coffee mornings. Money has also been raised through grant pledges. During the work, some headstones will be temporarily removed and put in the care of the church's stonemason so they are not damaged.

These include those of Oswald Wittard, Ludvic May, Captain Munns and Robert Come which are all at the top part of the churchyard. Those marked Newman, Bunn, Larter, and Sandford will also be protected.

The plans are currently on display at the church. Anyone who wants to get in touch about the proposal should call the vicar or churchwardens on 01603 426902.

Are you working on a community project? Call reporter Kate Scotter on 01603 772326 or email kate.scotter@archant.co.uk