Church re-fit to transform small Essex village

AN historic village church will soon become the hub of the community once more after the final round of funding for a �200,000 re-ordering project was confirmed.

Wicken Bonhunt has few amenities but work to transform St Margaret’s Church into a thriving community centre – making it into a focal point for all – will soon be underway.

That comes after the Essex Environment Trust announced it will be awarding the final �16,682 towards the project...more than the �10,000 applied for by the Parochial Church Council.

“It is unusual to hear that you will be getting more than what you asked for but we are over the moon,” said church warden Richard Taylor, who is managing the project. “Essex Environment Trust recognised that we needed to make up the gap and was happy to award us the money.

“It is a very exciting time for Wicken Bonhunt. Most people have driven through it but in terms of engagement within the village there hasn’t been much opportunity. It is absolutely vital that we create this social, educational and cultural centre.”

Whilst retaining the small chancel as a place of worship – where twice weekly services will continue – planned improvements to the 1,000-year-old church include an extension, updating of the heating and lighting system, and installing a disabled access.

It is expected that the works will be finished next month.

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The idea for the overhaul follows the controversial closure of youth education facility Wicken House by Essex County Council in 2008, which left the community without a place to meet.

It is hoped that the new multi-use facility will attract all members of the community – and plans are also afoot to re-establish the youth club.

“A lot of people were angry and distressed at the loss of that facility but work has gone in to improve the situation,” said Mr Taylor. “We are already running regular quiz nights, book and garden clubs, and have held history exhibitions. The idea is to make the space much more flexible in the way it can be used.

“The church was once the major part of the community and this will help it to become that once more.”

The funding announcement was made during the November meeting of the Essex Environment Trust and comes as part of a �155,139 funding package that is to be shared between a dozen projects across the county.