Ickworth: Call for volunteers at revamped church

Lord Bristol looking around Ickworth Church, which in the final stages of restoration. Lord Bristol

Lord Bristol looking around Ickworth Church, which in the final stages of restoration. Lord Bristol will also be speaking to Ickworth Church volunteers. Left to right, John Porter, Lord Bristol, Simon Pott. - Credit: Archant

A MEDIEVAL church identified by English Heritage as at risk of being lost is just weeks away from re-opening.

The restoration of the Grade II listed St Mary’s Church in the grounds of Ickworth House, near Bury St Edmunds, is due to be completed by June 25.

The work – funded by private investors, the Heritage Lottery Fund and English Heritage – is believed to have cost about £1million.

The Ickworth Church Conservation Trust (ICCT), chaired by the Marquess of Bristol, Frederick Hervey, now hopes to recruit an army of volunteers – from bell-ringers to window cleaners – to ensure the building can “come alive” with events and concerts.

Lord Bristol, whose ancestors have been buried at the church for 500 years, said the transformation of the church was “very special”.

St Mary’s, which includes a 13th Century chancel, was sold to the 7th Marquess of Bristol in 1986 after it was declared redundant by the Church Commissioners.

Lord Bristol said recruiting volunteers was vital to safeguarding the building for future generations. He added: “I am very hopeful that this church has a long history ahead of it, but it relies on getting volunteers.”

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Simon Pott, an ICCT trustee, said it was important all churches and historic buildings were used.

He added: “These buildings are not just places only for worship. My father was a vicar and a rector in Norfolk and I am fixated by the fact we have to do something to keep churches in use.

“Almost all of them are the finest buildings in their particular parish, so we’ve got to have an understanding of how we use churches in the future. We have to have a much more open view that churches can be used for all sorts of purposes.”

John Porter, who will be project co-ordinator of the revamped St Mary’s, hopes to find between 30 and 40 volunteers.

“It’s about getting it back to the heart of the community. It’s obviously very much a tourist attraction but we also need to have events because of investment of Heritage Lottery funding, we need some funding to maintain it for the future generations.

“It’s not just stewards to sit and look round, there’s a whole host of things and different activities that we need.”

In October last year, English Heritage said the removal of the church from its at-risk register was a top 10 priority.

To volunteer email Jporter2013@yahoo.co.uk or phone 01284 735006.

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