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End in sight for church restoration

PUBLISHED: 09:33 04 January 2010 | UPDATED: 16:03 03 July 2010

The vision of a determined group of parishioners to restore their village church to its former glory is set to be finally realised this year.

After decades of unremitting decline, the parlous state of St Peter and St Paul Church, at Runham, was exposed to millions of television viewers when a hapless Frank Spencer disappeared through a hole in the roof during a 1970s Christmas episode of Some Mothers Do Ave 'Em.

The vision of a determined group of parishioners to restore their village church to its former glory is set to be finally realised this year.

After decades of unremitting decline, the parlous state of St Peter and St Paul Church, at Runham, was exposed to millions of television viewers when a hapless Frank Spencer disappeared through a hole in the roof during a 1970s Christmas episode of Some Mothers Do Ave 'Em.

Weddings had stopped in the 1960s and soon after only one service a year - a carol concert - was being held in a church known as the Cathedral of the Broads because of its striking position.

Its remarkable turnaround began when a small group of parishioners, led by Bobbie Walsh, started to hold services again in their homes with the aim of returning to the abandoned church.

After nearly two decades of fund-raising and exhaustive grant applications, the villagers have seen the roof, stained glass windows and floor restored, and celebrated such landmarks as the return of christenings and weddings.

Now the Rev Graham Steel, vicar at Runham for three years, is hopeful that this year will see the walls being restored as the final piece in the jigsaw.

He said: “They will have to put up scaffolding around the whole church so it is going to cost about £25,000. The work will involve complete re-plastering and then lime washing the walls.”

Mr Steel, also the vicar at neighbouring Filby, Fleggburgh, Mautby and Stokesby, stressed that traditional materials would have to be used on a building that dated back to before the 14th century in parts.

He said it was heartening to see the church being restored as an important hub of the community - three services a month were now held there and the festive Christingle service had attracted 80 to 100 people.

He said: “We also hold a holiday club for children in the church which attracts up to 25 youngsters.”

Restoration of the walls would leave just the installation of electric power as the final thing on his wish-list - a generator was currently used during services.

Mrs Walsh, the church treasurer, said it was “quite a relief” to be so close to completing the restoration, which had already cost a large six-figure sum.

She said: “We already have £16,000, the remainder of a Norfolk Churches Grant and money from fund-raising, and we will be looking to other sources, including some charities, to make up the rest.”


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