Reepham Parochial Church Council (PCC) has been successful in the first round of funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for its “Three Churches in One Churchyard” project.
The aim is to repair and restore the mediaeval tower of St Mary’s church owing to the poor condition of its roof and stonework.
The project has been provisionally awarded a total £236,200, which includes a development grant of £18,300, under the HLF’s Grants for Places of Worship.
The initial funds will be used by Reepham PCC, the church’s governing body, to progress its plans to apply for the full grant (listed by HLF as £217,900 first-round pass) later this year.
HLF believes the project has the potential to deliver high-quality benefits and value for money, and a first-round pass is an endorsement of the outline proposals. The project now has up to 12 months to submit fully developed plans to compete for a firm award.
The first development phase of the Reepham Three Churches Project is expected to cost £32,000 and the total cost of the project will be around £305,000, mostly to fund major urgent repairs to St Mary’s church tower, which were previously estimated at more than £230,000.
Reepham is unique in the British Isles in that its churchyard has three churches belonging to three different parishes. Two churches – St Mary’s Reepham and St Michael’s Whitwell – still stand; the third – All Saints Hackford – has only a fragment of wall remaining.
St Mary’s remains Reepham’s primary place for worship and is open daily. St Michael’s, which was refurbished in 2011 at a cost of almost £400,000, is well-used by church and community groups.
As well as the work to the tower of St Mary’s, the PCC plans to discover more of the history and the outline of the third church. The work will involve a geophysical survey, and the development of a trail and information resources for visitors.
Both the primary school and high school in Reepham are keen to be involved at all stages, and there are also plans to involve the community in history and archaeological days.
The Rector, Revd Margaret Dean, said: “We are delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given us this support. The tower needs urgent repair and we have had to fence off the base for over a year because of the danger of masonry falling onto the public footpath immediately below.
“It is also very exciting to be given the opportunity to explore the ruin of All Saints, which we hope will not only reveal more of its history, but also offer the whole community an outdoor space for prayer and reflection.”
The PCC, which is also responsible for the care and upkeep of the church buildings, hopes the people of Reepham will join them in raising the extra funds necessary to complete this project.
“We are aware that these two precious church buildings and the ruin of the third belong to the people of Reepham and have stood here serving previous generations for many hundred years,” said a spokesperson.
To help raise additional funds, the church is planning a Gift Day on Saturday 27 June; more details will be provided at a later date.
To find out more about the Reepham Three Churches Project, contact: Revd Margaret Dean, The Rectory, 26 Station Road, Reepham, Norfolk NR10 4LJ. Tel: 01603 879275. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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