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Picture gallery: Norwich chilly church needs vital funds

PUBLISHED: 12:00 22 December 2011

As darkness falls the Rev Clare Dowding goes round St Mary's, Earlham, lighting candles since the electric lighting in the church failed.  Photo: Bill Smith

As darkness falls the Rev Clare Dowding goes round St Mary's, Earlham, lighting candles since the electric lighting in the church failed. Photo: Bill Smith

Archant © 2011

It is one of the surviving examples of a medieval church that would have been used by everyday local people, and has remaining features dating back to the time of the Domesday book of 1086.

"This situation is common virtually throughout Norfolk, they haven’t got any money."

Malcolm Fisher, secretary of the Norfolk Churches Trust.

Yet Earlham’s St Mary’s Church, found at the end of Earlham Road by Colney, is kept under lock and key for the most part, only opening for Christmas daytime services and the occasional wedding.

The church had previously been used for Sunday evening services, but with funds needed to fix faulty electrical work and other maintenance practically non existent, the building – which includes rare stained glass windows and examples of stone work and wood carvings spanning the ages – is too cold and damp to house worship and the church council have been left with a financial hurdle to overcome in order to get it fit for use.

Vicar of the church and nearby St Annes’ on Colman Road, Clare Dowding, said: “We can’t open due to a fault with the heating and lights – in darker months it is harder to use. It doesn’t have water or a toilet.

“It is a beautiful old church and has done a long time on the electrics it has.

“A lot of people locally have a lot of affection for the church.

“Many people have links to it, in conversations I have they say ‘my mum was married there,’ or they remember a relative is buried there. It is a shame that it is not being used to the full.

“There are funds we are applying to, and we are hoping that support will come from the community, diocese and other bodies.

“Churches struggle with finding these funds, but there is always a desire to keep them as living buildings, used for worship.”

The responsibility for the upkeep of the church falls to those that use it through the parochial church council.

The fund for the repairs – about £100,000 – has received local support, but may eventually need help from larger funding bodies.

While the Church of England dioceses pay the vicar’s wages, it is left up to the church council to apply for funding grants.

Malcolm Fisher, 17 years secretary of the Norfolk Churches Trust, said: “This situation is common virtually throughout Norfolk. They haven’t got any money.

“Norfolk has the highest concentration of medieval churches, and no way can the parishes afford the refurbs.

“The government has previously stepped in and provided grants to certain churches that proved they were in desperate need – £19m was given across the whole country but Norfolk alone requires £5m over the next five years for work to churches. Our need is much greater.”

To offer support contact Clare Dowding on 01603 927 976 and leave a message.

Do you know of a building needing help in order to survive? Call Joe Wilkes on 01603 772439 or email joe.wilkes@archant.co.uk

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