Essex/Suffolk: Charity calls for historic churches to be unlocked
10:43 18 March 2013
A CONSERVATION group has called for historic churches across Suffolk and Essex to be unlocked.
The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT), which cares for hundreds of internationally significant churches in the UK – including more than 30 in the region – has appealed for communities and volunteers to help increase access to and protect the vital cultural landmarks.
History groups have backed the call and stressed that if the buildings are not used and cherished, important links to our past could be lost.
Peter Aiers, director for the South East region of the CCT, said the charity depends on volunteers to make sure historically important churches can be accessed by everyone – either through physically locking and unlocking sites or raising funds.
He added: “We’re looking for volunteers everywhere, but specifically in areas where we have partial openings or where a keyholder has to be contacted for access. We want all of our sites open every day. We want an army of volunteers.”
The trust is responsible for about 340 churches across the UK that have been handed to them by the Church of England after communities and congregations have fallen away. Of the 20 historic churches in Suffolk only six are fully open, while in Essex six of the 11 in the control of the CCT are open on a daily basis.
Mr Aiers said the CCT is a “a safety net” for the most architecturally and culturally valuable churches in the country.
He added: “The danger is I suppose, that at the moment we have to raise money to make sure they keep standing up. If people can’t access them, they become less relevant and it is harder to raise money because people don’t know about them.”
Mr Aiers said the buildings have a connection to the community even if people do not believe in God.
He added: “Most people realise how important and how beautiful these buildings are and recognise their importance to our sense of place and sense of who we are – they are part of our identity.
“For example, when you move somewhere you can find out a lot about history from the local church building itself. It usually reflects the highs and lows of that community in the masonry.”
The trust said that those churches that are open for longer receive more donations and have improved security as a result of natural surveillance.
Jane Winch, social secretary of Halstead and District Local History Society said it is important that historic buildings can be easily accessed to allow people - especially children - to engage with their heritage.
She added: “If a building is dormant, it is not part of the community. I think it’s really sad. Parents should take kids down to the church, it’s not about religion, it’s about heritage and getting them engaged in it. It’s about community and at the moment that is being hammered at every point.”
Ms Winch said the closure of important historic buildings cuts off a connection to the past. She added: “It’s all about how your built environment changes and if it is not cherished, it will go.”
St Mary’s Church, Akenham, Suffolk - Keyholder
St Mary’s Church, Badley, Suffolk - Summer opening
St Mary’s Church, Bungay, Suffolk - Summer opening
St Mary’s Church, Chilton, Suffolk - Keyholder
St Peter’s Church, Claydon, Suffolk - Summer opening
St Andrew’s Church, Covehithe, Suffolk - Open
All Saints’ Church, Ellough, Suffolk - Open
All Saints’ Church, Icklingham, Suffolk- Open
Church of St Mary-at-the-Quay, Ipswich, Suffolk - Keyholder
All Saints’ Church, Little Wenham, - Keyholder
All Saints’ Church, Newton Green, - Summer opening
St Mary’s Church, Redgrave, - Partially open
St Mary’s Church, Rickinghall Superior, - Keyholder
St Andrew’s Church, Sapiston, Suffolk - Open
All Saints’ Church, South Elmham, Suffolk - Open
Church of St John the Baptist, Stanton, Suffolk - Open
Church of St Mary the Virgin, Stonham Parva, Suffolk - Summer opening
St Peter’s Church, Sudbury, Suffolk – Keyholder (but lots of volunteers and active)
St Mary’s Church, Washbrook, Suffolk - Keyholder
All Saints’ Church, Wordwell, Suffolk – Partially open
St Michael’s Church, Berechurch, Essex – Keyholder
St Mary’s Church, Chickney, Essex – Open
St Leonard-at-the-Hythe Church, Colchester, Essex- Partially open
St Martin’s Church, Colchester, Essex - Open
All Saints’ Church, East Horndon, Essex – Partially open
Holy Trinity Church, Halstead, Essex – Open
Church of St Mary the Virgin, Little Bromley, Essex – Summer opening
Church of St Mary the Virgin, Stansted Mountfitchet, Essex- Open
All Saints’ Church, Vange, Essex – Partially open
St Mary’s Church, West Bergholt, Essex – Open
St Andrew’s Church, Willingale Spain, Essex - Open