Ancient Sudbury church undergoes 21st century refit

Suffolk County councillors John Sayers and Colin Spence joined Rector Gregory Webb, church wardens C

Suffolk County councillors John Sayers and Colin Spence joined Rector Gregory Webb, church wardens Colin Deeks, Barbara Tyler and Mandy Turner on a new balcony created at St Gregory's Church as part of a �250,000 refurbishment programme. - Credit: Su Anderson

An ancient church where St Edmund is believed to have been crowned King of East Anglia in 855AD has been given a 21st century makeover, thanks to donations totalling £230,000.

After more than 20 years in the pipeline, long-awaited work to install modern facilities in St Gregory’s Church, Sudbury has finally been completed.

Despite the church seeing a regular Sunday congregation of 120 parishioners, and around 6,000 people using it each year for events, up until now there has been no toilets, and nowhere for parishioners to make refreshments or store items.

The project, which took six years to plan and five months to create, includes three toilet cubicles at the back of the church in the base of tower so elderly congregation members no longer have to walk 150 yards to Walnuttree Hospital or cross a busy road to get to the church hall in Prince Street.

But while the majority of the work has been carried out using lime washed oak to match the ancient stonework, the bright red and green striped colour scheme used to screen the toilets - which was designed by a specialist architect - has raised some eyebrows, with one parishioner describing the colours as “garish” and “sticking out like a sore thumb”.

Reverend Canon Gregory Webb defended the colour scheme, saying it tied in with the “medieval style” of much of the interior decoration.

He added: “The coloured stripes are not everyone’s cup of tea and it has divided opinion, but we wanted to modernise the church and make it fit for purpose while maintaining its historic significance and without damaging the fabric of the building in any way. I am proud to say that we have achieved that.

Most Read

“Installing plumbing in a building of this age was a massive task which caused us some headaches.

“But we have been very lucky that most of the £230,000 has been given to us via legacies and donations from the congregation. It has been a long time coming but I am absolutely thrilled with the results.”

The refit also includes a new floor above the toilets, which could be used as a minstrels’ gallery or a vantage point for wedding photographers.

Old cupboards on the church’s west wall have been replaced with oak storage units housing a water heater, oven, sink, dish-washer and crockery to create a “servery” for refreshments.

Meanwhile in the vestry - which houses the severed head of former Archbishop of Canterbury Simon of Sudbury who was killed during the Peasants’ Revolt in 1381 - a bright red painted mezzanine floor has been fitted and the lower area converted into an office and meeting room. New seating has also been installed throughout the building.

County councillors Colin Spence and John Sayers each gave £1,000 from their locality budgets towards the refurbishment. Mr Spence said: “St Gregory’s is a really important facility for the community so I was pleased to be able to make a contribution to such a worthwhile project.”