Offenders take pride is restoring 13th century churchyard
- Credit: Nick Butcher
As a group of men pulled away weeds from the grounds surrounding All Saints Church in Worlingham, they discovered centuries of history hidden underneath.
One grave, marked 1913, was the final resting place for the rector who served at the church for 34 years.
But the people clearing the area, taking due time to appreciate the history of the site, are not volunteers or parishioners. They are offenders who are completing their community payback service.
And Norfolk and Suffolk Rehabilitation Company is happy to match those on parole with meaningful community service projects.
Especially with the recent spate of crime and theft directed toward churches in the greater East Anglia area, the group is finding a purpose in giving something back to these important historical and religious landmarks.
'It's a bit of restorative justice, we feel like we're helping out the churches,' John Wesley, placement coordinator at Norfolk and Suffolk Rehabilitation Company, said.
'You can really see the benefits of the work, too; the group can see the work they've achieved. It's historical and many of these men who wouldn't think of coming to a church like to look at the gravestones and go inside the church. A lot of villages have a church, so there's always more to do.'
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Peter Hobbs, chairman of the church, found that the community work has seemed to make a big personal impact on the offenders.
'It's remarkable really, they do take an interest in it. One of these young lads came up to me and said: 'Can I take a look around?' We really thank them for their work and they probably haven't had someone say 'thanks very much' to them before,' Mr Hobbs said.
He also says this is a great time of year, with Remembrance Day services and poppy appeals, to take a step back and remember those who have gone before.
'It tells a bit of a story really, all these gravestones, it's a piece of our heritage. We want it to also be a welcoming, attractive area for the church and community. People walk through with dogs and parishioners attend services. We like to keep the church open for anyone to come in,' Mr Hobbs said.
'It's about reconnecting with the church, now we can fully see what's here,' David Wilcock, treasurer of the church, added.