Key figures at St Mary’s Church in Gissing say they are much closer to their vision of an inviting community hub, after winning a major cash boost of more than £200,000.
The Gissing Parochial Church Council (PCC) and the Friends of Gissing Church partnership has secured £208,800 from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF), to carry out significant repairs on six areas of the building, which has stood in Lower Street for nearly one thousand years.
Combined with grants from other bodies, this now enables St Mary’s Church to finance improvements totalling £280,000, concluding a difficult fundraising process that began in 2013.
George Hammond, Lay Chairman of the Gissing PCC, said everybody involved was “absolutely delighted” to reach this vital stage in the project.
He told the Diss Express: “It’s a great relief. Small communities like ours really have little chance of raising that king of money on their own.
“It’s the main building in the centre of the village. It’s at the heart of the community, really.
“This gets us a lot closer to our vision of a church to which all parts of the community feel a common connection and are delighted to be engaged with.”
The project will focus on repairing damage to the south chapel, north chapel, chancel, round tower and north porch, as well as a complete scheme of new ground drainage around the perimeter.
In addition, the funds will allow for the installation of a new electricity supply and a modern heating system throughout the entire church — an addition which Mr Hammond explained had been sought after for many years, as the cold interior sometimes made it difficult to use in the autumn and winter.
Fiona Turton, chairperson of the Friends of Gissing Church group, said: “Once the repairs are completed, St Mary’s can be used for a wide range of concerts and exhibitions, providing an inviting venue for a range of community events.
“The church has a fascinating heritage and many stories to tell, and we look forward to being able to explain and promote it so much more effectively.”
As part of the conditions of the HLF funding, there will also be events, activities and history lectures in the coming months and years, in order to expand people’s knowledge of the church’s heritage.
Robyn Llewellyn, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund East of England, added: “St Mary’s Church in Gissing is an excellent example of how HLF can help conserve a much loved building so it can continue to serve local people of all ages.”