Church saved from collapse 'tragedy' after major cracks in walls appear

St Edmund's, Hargrave Church in Suffolk

St Edmund's, Hargrave Church has been saved from potential collapse - Credit: St Edmund's, Hargrave Church

A beloved ancient church which faced a "race against time" for survival has been saved - after villagers rallied round to stop the "tragedy" of its collapse. 

Cracks first began to appear between the east chancel wall and the remainder of the building at St Edmund's, Hargrave Church, near Bury St Edmunds, in 2014 - not long after parishioners had fixed a leaking roof.

A three-inch crack in the wall of the St Edmund's, Hargrave Church put its future in doubt

A three-inch crack in the wall of the St Edmund's, Hargrave Church put its future in doubt - Credit: St Edmund's, Hargrave Church

The long, hot summer of 2018 accelerated its demise and caused the cracks to widen to three inches, raising fears the wall would collapse and put the church's future in doubt.

The site had also been put on Heritage England's At Risk register.

There were fears the cracks could put the future of St Edmund's, Hargrave Church in jeopardy

There were fears the cracks could put the future of St Edmund's, Hargrave Church in jeopardy - Credit: St Edmund's, Hargrave Church

But a spirited fundraising campaign by villagers raised £55,000 for underpinning, drainage improvement and restitching of the cracks to preserve the historic building for future generations. 

The money also paid for the resizing one window, repair of the Georgian prayer boards and redecoration of the chancel.

Parochial church council (PCC) member Peter Reddick said it would have been a "tragedy" to see the church lost.

The St Edmund's, Hargrave Church wall after the repairs

The St Edmund's, Hargrave Church wall after the repairs - Credit: St Edmund's, Hargrave Church

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He said: "I think there's a fondness for it. It's at the heart of where the village started from. There's a lot of connection between its graveyard and families in the village.

"The longer it went on towards potential collapse, the more expensive it would've become - and therefore the fundraising challenge would've been in multiples."

That could have led to St Edmund's being deemed to expensive to save, he said.

The St Edmund's, Hargrave Church wall after the repairs

The St Edmund's, Hargrave Church wall after the repairs - Credit: St Edmund's, Hargrave Church

"That would've been a tragedy for our village," he said.

Mr Reddick praised the community for rallying round to save a building which is close to their hearts.

"We would only have been able to achieve what we have been able to achieve through connecting with the community," he said.

"People may not go to church every Sunday like they used to, but they appreciate the manner in which we reach out to them through fundraising events."

Money also came from organisations such as Suffolk Historic Churches Trust, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Wolfson Foundation.

Over the past 10 years, the PCC has raised about £150,000 for repairs to the Grade II Listed medieval building, with about 30% of funds coming from the community.

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