Angel row between Bacton’s parish church and middle school

St Mary's Church in Bacton.

St Mary's Church in Bacton. - Credit: Archant

Children in a Suffolk village are mystified and disappointed after discovering that a carved wooden angel designed as a memorial for their school cannot be installed in the local church.

School pupil Holly Lummis with the angel

School pupil Holly Lummis with the angel - Credit: Gregg Brown

The idea was to mark the closure of Bacton Middle School by getting children to help design one of two wooden angels, which would be fitted to the local parish church, St Mary’s.

But years after the concept was first mooted, the project has hit a major and what could be fatal hurdle.

Fifty pupils from the school near Stowmarket submitted drawings for the angel to renowned Haughley sculptor Rob Lewis.

He created a scaled-down model of their angel but, after apparent initial agreement, church authorities dismissed the project. Instead the school and their supporters say they were told that a “new modern artwork” would be more fitting.

School pupil Holly Lummis with the angel

School pupil Holly Lummis with the angel - Credit: Gregg Brown

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Ian Belham, headteacher of the school, which closed to pupils on July 17, described the decision as “incomprehensible”.

“The children were delighted with Rob Lewis’s model of the angel and so were the staff,” he said.

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“We thought it was wonderful that the school would be remembered in this way in our local church rather than disappearing when it closes.

“We’re all very disappointed that this won’t happen and find the decision by the church authorities incomprehensible.”

Like many Suffolk churches, St Mary’s once featured dozens of carved wooden angels. These were torn down by the image breakers during the Reformation.

The schoolchildren’s angel would have been placed on the sawn-off end of a hammer beam, just where an original would once have been situated, above the organ loft.

Ann Kent, one of the villagers involved in the project, said: “The idea of asking the pupils to help with the design actually came from a DAC [Diocesan Advisory Committee for the Care of Churches] member.

“The Friends of St Mary’s and the PCC [Parochial Church Council] had been talking to the DAC for nearly three years about putting angels in the church roof and this was the last straw. When we spoke to other villagers we found they felt the same way: they wanted carved wooden angels, not modern artworks.”

She added the Friends of St Mary’s had planned to set up a fundraising website for one angel; with the group paying for the second.

But John Howard, spokesman for the diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich, claimed “funds were not available locally” to pay for the work.

“We have worked closely with everyone involved throughout this process and a panel was formed with representatives of the Friends, the parochial church council, the congregation and DAC,” he said.

“At its first meeting it was agreed they needed a facilitator to work with them to achieve their goals and the DAC was asked to find one. Sadly, the funds were not available locally to pay for the facilitator’s time and soon afterwards the DAC was informed the PCC had decided not to proceed.

“The DAC has gained the support of English Heritage and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings to the scheme for two angels and we are very sorry that the staff and children of Bacton Community Middle School are disappointed.

“We still hope to work with all those involved to find a solution which pleases everyone and at the same time is a genuine contemporary enhancement to an internationally significant roof.”

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