Rural vicarage to be sold off

A RURAL vicarage has been put up for auction and local parish church officials say it is now “unlikely” that a priest will be resident in the village in the future.

By David Green

A RURAL vicarage has been put up for auction and local parish church officials say it is now “unlikely” that a priest will be resident in the village in the future.

A Save Our Vicar campaign was launched at Hoxne amidst fears that the Rev Tony Lowe, rector of Hoxne and nearby villages for 20 years, would not be replaced following his retirement.

However, Peter Drake, one of the churchwardens, said that it now seemed unlikely the village would be given a resident clergyman in the future.

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Hoxne Vicarage, a large, seven-bedroomed country house which is expected to raise £500,000 at auction on June 21, has been the home of the local Church of England clergyman for several centuries.

The Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich has described the property's annual maintenance cost as one of the highest in Suffolk and local people have not been surprised by the decision to sell the property.

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However, they had hoped that a smaller, replacement vicarage would be built or purchased with part of the proceeds and that the village would continue to have a full-time resident clergyman.

While talks with the diocese are still continuing, the parochial church council has been advised that, for financial reasons and the shortage of full-time clergy, the likelihood is that the Hoxne benefice will be amalgamated with another local benefice.

Mr Drake said: “It has now been accepted that the four local benefices will be reduced to three. We had to go along with it.

“I cannot say if we will have a full-time vicar in Hoxne but it is unlikely.”

Mr Drake said it was not known if the local church would be given anything out of the proceeds from the sale of the vicarage.

But funds were needed to pay for annual maintenance and, with the loss of the vicarage for church meetings, the provision of a small new building.

Fund-raising for the parish church during the past year was £4,000 short of the sum needed to maintain the building and meet the diocesan “quota”.

“We will have to wait until the dust settles after the auction and we see whether we are going to get any of the proceeds,” Mr Drake added.

The adult population of Hoxne amounted to only 700 people and the church needed more supporters and more income.

The next fund-raising event is the church fete to be held at Abbey Farm, Hoxne on June 24 and due to be opened by the Archdeacon of Suffolk, the Venerable Geoffrey Arrand .

Nick Clarke, diocesan spokesman, said proceeds for the sale of the vicarage would go into general diocesan funds - unless part of the sum was needed to build or purchase a new property locally.

“The re-organisation of the whole deanery is going forward. When it is completed the search for a new incumbent will begin in earnest.

“Hoxne will certainly be covered by a full-time member of the clergy in the future but it is impossible to say at this stage where that person will live,” he added.

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