Saxon church ready for makeover

A SAXON church, abandoned for 30 years, is being converted in to a Christian centre as it is returned to religious life.The Suffolk Architectural Heritage Trust(SAHT), which acquired the building a year ago following court action by Mid Suffolk District Council against the former owners, is undertaking the work to the Grade I Listed church.

A SAXON church, abandoned for 30 years, is being converted in to a Christian centre as it is returned to religious life.

The Suffolk Architectural Heritage Trust(SAHT), which acquired the building a year ago following court action by Mid Suffolk District Council against the former owners, is undertaking the work to the Grade I Listed church.

St Andrew's, in Mickfield near Stowmarket, dates from around 1310 when the tower was added to the Saxon church which had stood on the site since the early 11th Century. The church was enlarged during the 14th and 15th Centuries.

But declining congregations and the deteriorating condition of the building led to its closure in 1975 and subsequent redundancy.


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After standing unused for more than a decade, the building was sold for housing in 1989, but the conversion never took place. Thieves and vandals reduced the church to near dereliction.

The district council stepped in and undertook essential repairs, but the churchyard became overgrown, with some saplings higher than the church itself and brambles making access very difficult.

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Now, with the churchyard cleared and the tower clad in scaffolding, repair work can begin on the historic structure. The repairs will be comprehensive and include repointing of much of the external flint work; a new roof; replacement of all windows, including some of the surrounding stonework; and the stabilisation of the tower.

The inside of the church had been stripped and vandalised, but the repair programme will include the restoration of the chancel floor.

An unusual feature of the new lease of life for St Andrew's is that it is being returned to Christian use.

A spokesman for SAHT said: "On completion of repairs to the historic shell, scheduled for the end of September, it will be acquired for the Anglia Church Trust, a new charity set up for the purpose which will run it as a Christian centre.

"The church will be restored as the spiritual heart of Mickfield, a parish of just over 80 houses and about 200 inhabitants.

"It will also seek a wider role as a retreat, training and conference centre for use within the St Edmundsbury and Ipswich Diocese and beyond. It may also become a local centre for Franciscans.''

SAHT are carrying out the project with substantial grant aid from English Heritage, and also with the help of the Architectural Heritage Fund.

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