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Restored roof is a blessing

PUBLISHED: 14:53 09 October 2008 | UPDATED: 09:11 13 July 2010

Having a roof over your head is a blessing. But a few years ago, the parishioners at St Mary's Church, Tunstead, were beginning to think its ancient canopy was more of a curse.

HAVING a roof over your head is a blessing. But a few years ago, the parishioners at St Mary's Church, Tunstead, were beginning to think its ancient canopy was more of a curse.

The love-hate relationship hit the rocks when a sudden fall of flint and plaster sent choristers running for cover, unimpressed at the bad manners from heaven.

Now, after three years of fund-raising and hard work, the roof has been restored to its former glory.

And last Wednesday the Bishop of Thetford, the Rt Rev David Atkinson, performed a blessing for the roof at a thanksgiving service.

The Bishop also blessed the eight church bells - 11 years after the end of an on-off restoration programme that endured for decades.

The roof, which still contains original beams that are as old as the 14th century church, was refurbished thanks to £230,000 from English Heritage and a flurry of grants from other organisations. Another £7,500 was raised after letters were sent to all the homes in the village.

John Carter, churchwarden and fabric officer, said: "It was in a pretty bad state really. It deteriorated over the years. It was essential that we had the work done.

"This has extended the life of the church. The roof was moving and putting stress on the walls. The plaster panels were buckling and falling down.

"We had to rope off one-third of the pews and parts of the nave. One day, people were ringing the bells at evensong and the choir were robing, and there was a crash of flint and plaster falling down.

"Now we don't have to have any fear of being hit by falling debris."

Mr Carter added: "It's a real achievement to get to this point. The congregation is really pleased."

The bells rang out at the end of 1997 for the first time for 75 years, following a painstaking restoration project led by the Norwich Diocesan Association of Ringers. They were never given a blessing, hence the Bishop's double duty last week.


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