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Vandalised village church to finish restoration after lottery grant

St Mary's Church, Forncett St Mary
. Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

St Mary's Church, Forncett St Mary . Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

ARCHANT EASTERN DAILY PRESS (01603) 772434

A restoration of a Norfolk church which once fell victim to vandals will soon be complete after 10 years of hard work, thanks to a £25,000 Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant.

St Mary's Church, Forncett St Mary
. Picture: SONYA DUNCANSt Mary's Church, Forncett St Mary . Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

The Upper Tas Valley All Saints PCC has received initial support from the HLF for Forncett St Mary’s Church as part of its Save our Saxon Tower project.

The project aims to carry out urgent work to repair the oldest part of the Grade 1 Listed church, the Saxon tower.

Funding of £25,000 has been awarded to help create the plans that, if accepted, will result in the church receiving the full grant.

Graham Prior, chairman of the Friends of Forncett St Mary’s Church, said: “It is a really nice feeling – to get the satisfaction that the church, which was redundant for so many years, will once again be servicing the
community.

St Mary's Church, Forncett St Mary
. Picture: SONYA DUNCANSt Mary's Church, Forncett St Mary . Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

“A church is for more than services, as it can hold community events – but they have to do more to survive. We have to do the same if we are going to keep these small rural churches alive.

“I am very proud of what has happened. It has been a team effort but I couldn’t have done it on my own.”

In 2007, Mr Prior moved next to the church and decided to start clearing the graveyard. The following year the Friends of Forncett Church was formed and now has more than 90 members.

Mr Prior said: “The church was made redundant in 1985, with the last services in the church held in the late 70s. After that it just sat there, vandalised, with the pews taken out and sold.”

St Mary's Church, Forncett St Mary
. Picture: SONYA DUNCANSt Mary's Church, Forncett St Mary . Picture: SONYA DUNCAN

The roof was maintained by the Redundant Church Committee which stopped water damaging the interior of the church allowing it to be saved more than 30 years later.

The initial £25,000 will be spent on creating plans for the next stage of work. If these plans meet the original application a further £200,000 will be granted.

Mr Prior added: “The whole tower is going to be scaffoldage and all the flint will be repointed and made good as it is in a poor condition. It will have a new roof on the top of the tower and the porch will be completely refurbished.

“Through the 90s and into the millennium, various people looked at it with the possibility of turning it into residential buildings or holiday accommodation. Even craft workshops were looked at but it didn’t come to anything.”

Forncett St Mary’s is mentioned in the Doomsday Book and there has been a church on the site since the 10th century.

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