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Essex/Suffolk: Charity calls for historic churches to be unlocked

10:43 18 March 2013

Holy Trinity church, Hasltead - one of six that is open on a daily basis

Holy Trinity church, Hasltead - one of six that is open on a daily basis

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.”

Suffolk’s churches

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

Essex’s churches

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

1 comment

  • In my experience, most Suffolk churches remain unlocked and if not, there are usually instructions about contacting the keyholder (normally a neighbouring house). Best source of current information is here:

    Report this comment

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