Historic churches in Paston, Hempstead, Baconsthorpe and Ingham receive share of �2.8m hand out for urgent repairs

A group of ancient north Norfolk churches have been given a welcome cash injection of more than a quarter of a million pounds to go towards urgent repair work.

The historic places of worship in Paston, Hempstead, Baconsthorpe and Ingham have been awarded �325,000 in grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

The much-needed grants make up part of a massive �2.8m hand out being divided between 28 churches across the East of England.

St Margaret's Church in Paston is receiving the most out of the north Norfolk cheque with a grant of �99,000, which will help protect its important 15th century wall paintings and memorials to the famous Paston family.

Structural repairs and work to improve the Grade I building's 'environmental conditions' will also be paid for through the grant that will help pave the way for future plans to turn it into a heritage centre.

Churchwarden Nicholas Bardswell, said the congregation was 'delighted and thrilled' to receive the much-needed funding.

He added: 'We're all very excited because suddenly, after plugging away it's all happening. It's the first step of quite a long haul but having got the first step we feel we can see our way right through to the far end.'

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The money will primarily go towards repairs to protect St Margaret's from damp, which will then allow work to begin on restoring the paintings and monuments.

It is hoped the repairs can begin some time next year, but before then the congregation will be applying for further grants to secure the money needed for the church's future plans.

Mr Bardswell said: 'We are embarking on consultations now to find out what people want to see in the church if they're going to use it.

'I think if we weren't able to do the repairs, if we hadn't got that grant, the rest of it wasn't going to happen, so we're all very pleased.'

Tucked away St Andrew's Church in Hempstead, which is Grade II* listed, is using its cheque for �88,000 to re-thatch the roof. Patches of the current thatch have eroded, exposing fixtures, and the church now suffers from leaks during heavy rain.

Similar roof repairs are set to be carried out on the Holy Trinity Church in Ingham. The chancel is in urgent need of attention and extensive repairs are needed to the timber roof structure.

The �92,000 it is receiving will also pay for the church's ground water drainage to be refurbished and repaired.

Damp will also be tackled at St Mary the Virgin's Church in Baconsthorpe, which is receiving �46,000. The vestry walls inside the large medieval parish church are bulging and peeling and its roof is in need of repair.

And money will also go towards overhauling its rainwater system.

Robin Llewellyn, head of HLF East of England, said: 'Historic places of worship are an irreplaceable part of our heritage that continues to play a vital role within local communities today.

'In the last 10 years, the Heritage Lottery Fund has invested �155m in these wonderful buildings and I am delighted we are able to continue supporting congregations across the East of England, to safeguard them for future generations.'