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Village church near Wymondham reopens after six year restoration project

PUBLISHED: 06:30 09 April 2012

The newly refurbished St Mary's Church in Hackford with the repaired Lych Gate. l-r: R'vd Shirley Holt, Church Warden Heather Ethridge and R'vd Colin Reed.

The newly refurbished St Mary's Church in Hackford with the repaired Lych Gate. l-r: R'vd Shirley Holt, Church Warden Heather Ethridge and R'vd Colin Reed.

Archant Norfolk Photographic © 2012

Six years ago, a medieval rural church was at risk of being closed forever after a large crack was discovered in its chancel arch.

However, the congregation of St Mary the Virgin at Hackford celebrated a special Easter Sunday Communion yesterday for its reopening following major structural works to keep it open for future generations.

The hamlet, near Wymondham, which only has a population of around 100 people, rallied round to save the 11th century building after it was closed in 2006 for safety reasons.

There was standing room only yesterday at a service to mark the reopening of the church following more than £100,000 of work to make it structurally sound.

And whilst the majority of the repairs were funded by grants from English Heritage, the Garfield Weston Foundation and Norfolk Churches Trust, villagers raised a further £12,000 to restore the crumbling lych gate at the entrance to the church grounds.

Church officials are now looking forward to holding monthly services at St Mary’s and can stage weddings, funerals and christenings again after it was last used as a place of worship in August 2006.

Rev Colin Reed, Rector for the church, said it was important to keep churches open and praised the fundraising efforts of local people.

“It was in a terrible state and had to be shut to make safe whilst the PCC considered whether to go ahead with the work or not. It was a controversial decision, but the PCC resolved to go with it.”

“I think the Church of England is committed to being a church for everyone. It is a bit like the Post Office, we are committed to being everywhere and it means that people know they have access to the church,” he said.

It took two years to get the funding together for the restoration work, which was further held up by snowy weather, the church’s resident bats, and studies into the medieval wall paintings discovered under the plaster.

Churchwarden Heather Ethridge, who led the four year project to restore the lych gate, said the hard work had been worth the effort.

“It [the lych gate] was about to tip over and the PCC had a meeting and suggested we take it down and put it in the corner until we had enough money and I did not think that would happen.”

“It has been very emotional to have an Easter Sunday service here and has been so uplifting and to have all these people here.

“We have raised over £12,000, which is a phenomenal achievement for 93 adults in this little hamlet.

“People have been so generous,” she said.

The church warden organised a host of events, including coffee mornings, fetes, catering for wedding receptions and car boot sales to raise the money to restore the lych gate. Mrs Ethridge added that they would be continuing their fundraising to meet a £5,000 shortfall in the renovation work.

The church dates from the 11th century and was substantially altered in 14th and 15th centuries with the introduction of a tower in the late 15th century.

adam.gretton@archant.co.uk

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