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New lease of life for ruined church

By Bedfordshire On Sunday  |  Posted: October 15, 2012

St Mary's Church, Clophill

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A village church is set to have a £225,000 makeover which could once again see its ruins made accessible to the public.

The project is able to go ahead after St Mary’s Church in Clophill secured the final £50,000 needed from WREN, as part of a £585,000 Heritage Fund which is helping to protect grade one and two star listed buildings across the UK.

The church, of which only the tower and parts of the nave remain, is a scheduled ancient monument and grade two listed building and is currently in disrepair and closed to the public.

The restoration of the church ruins will take place in two parts with the funding from WREN going towards the stabilisation of the ruin and restoration of the spiral staircase in the tower to provide a viewing and observation area for visitors.

Once this stage is complete, there are plans to build a new stand-alone heritage centre adjacent to the church with accommodation for walkers and those on educational visits.

Peter Cox, managing director of WREN, said: “We believe it’s very important to maintain and protect historical sites such as St Mary’s Church. Sites like this are part of the country’s rich history and we must ensure they remain intact for future generations.” The project will cost £225,000 to complete, with a further £75,000 grant from English Heritage, and a £100,000 grant from Heritage at Risk, allowing work to go ahead early next year.

Project organiser, Ali Bradbury, said: “The funding from WREN will be a great help in consolidating the church and creating an iconic future use. This monument is a prominent hilltop feature on the Greensands ridge and commands an impressive view of the surrounding countryside.

“We’re delighted that the repair work will mean that this beautiful building and surroundings can be truly appreciated by the local community and visitors alike.” St Mary’s was bought by the former Bedfordshire County Council in 1977 for consolidation and maintenance, but has had a troubled past including vandalism and fly-tipping.

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  • Bedfordshire On Sunday  |  October 16 2012, 10:59PM

    No mention of the witchcraft rites that took place there in the 1960s and 70s then? I sincerely hope they aren't planning on digging up all the graves that are scattered around the churchyard (the stones were all moved to the perimeter in 1977) as that would make them as bad as the vandals. The accommodation idea for walkers is hilarious!