The centuries-old church in Bressingham needing urgent repairs has received a vital lifeline after it was awarded a development grant following the first round of bids to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).
The Church of St John the Baptist, based in Church Lane, obtained initial support from the HLF with a £28,900 grant to carry out investigative works, which it will use as the basis for its second-round application for £250,000, to help fund a substantial restoration project.
This comes after the Grade I listed church was placed on Historic England’s Heritage At Risk register, a list of historic structures in declining conditions, last October, with the classification of category C—at risk of slow decay.
Diana Burroughes, churchwarden for Bressingham, one of six parishes comprising the Diss Team Ministry along with Diss, Roydon, Fersfield and the Lophams, said: “We are delighted to have been awarded a first-round pass, and hope that this will result in us receiving the remainder of the application bid, so that we can ensure the preservation of this historic landmark.”
Current estimates suggest the total cost of all the improvements will be more than £300,000.
The church has now arranged opening up works with its architect, Nicholas Warns, as it works to put together the final application to the HLF by this November.
In addition to the essential repair works, aimed at making the structure watertight, the bid for funding, which is being spearheaded by a small team of volunteers, also outlines a proposal to establish a village Historical Society and launch new community engagement schemes.
The initiatives planned are a ‘Graffiti Project’, intended for children as well as adults, and a research project, which the group says will shed light on people from history such as woodcarvers and graffiti inscribers, and “encourage a far wider group of people to engage with this heritage.”
Linda Holly, Associate Member of the Church of St John the Baptist and HLF project leader, said it was important to demonstrate the site’s heritage was being appreciated by many demographics, if they were to have a chance of securing the second round funding.
“We are very happy to receive the first round grant. Really, the aim is to reinstate the church as an asset at the centre of the community,” she told the Diss Express.
“Leonora Pearce and I got involved as members of the community to show support for the long term survival of the building. We want to make the building a hub for the community.
“We have a busy year ahead working on the second round of the application. It is a lot of work,” she added.
“The HLF wants to see the building used in a variety of different ways. We are trying to encourage people to participate. It is a church worth visiting and we welcome people from all walks to come in.”
The team confirmed it would also be appealing for financial support from other bodies, including the Norfolk Churches Trust.
If the church successfully acquires all the necessary funds, the repair works are set to commence in 2017.
Also set to begin in April next year are various heritage events, including open days, reenactment performances and a heritage walk led by Norfork landscape historian Professor Tom Williamson, from the University of East Anglia, while Bressingham Primary School has already expressed interest in getting involved.
For further information on the church’s activities, please go to www.dissteamministry.org.uk/friends-of-st-john-the-baptist-bressingham.php