December 6 2013 Latest news:
By RICHARD WOOD
Wednesday, June 13, 2012
A church that has been at the heart of a market town for 600 years is facing a repair bill of a quarter of a million to keep it open for use.
St Michael’s Church, in Beccles, has to find approximately £250,000 for essential repairs to be completed, with substantially more money needed for longer-term work.
The medieval church, which is in the centre of the town, was inspected by an architect last year, but the financial implications of the report have only now become apparent.
Among the necessary work will be major repairs to the south porch, including a complete new roof and strengthened foundations, improvements to the north porch roof, as well as high level stone work, and the reinstallation of other windows.
Philip Filer, church warden, said: “St Michael’s is an ancient building. Over the past 600 years it has suffered the ravages of the weather as well as the natural aging process of any building.
“Today we face some major repairs to the roof, stonework, windows and more, and in the future extensive repairs to the high-level windows and stonework are needed as well as the general ongoing maintenance that the building requires.”
Rev John Beauchamp said that they would initially turn to English Heritage for help.
Mr Beauchamp said: “We will hope for substantial aid from organisations like that but we will need to raise money within the town to get the work done.
“There is no question it has to be done to keep it safe and weather tight and usable, if not it will deteriorate and no longer be safe to use.”
He added that the church could have £10m spent on it but there would still work needing to be done because of its age.
“It is the oldest building in Beccles. For 600 years it has been in the heart of the town, a place where people gather marking the milestones of life with baptisms, weddings, funerals, and people still gather each week for concerts, events and services,” he said.
It is hoped that the church can remain open during the work, once they have raised the money for it to take place, but Mr Beauchamp said the support and dedication of the town would be needed to help them.