Community rejoices as �200k village church is revitalised

MEMBERS of a tight-knit community have celebrated the unveiling of their revitalised 1,000-year-old church which they hope will act as a central hub to bring the village together.

More than half of the residents of Wicken Bonhunt turned out to welcome the completion of a �200,000 re-ordering project at a rededication service on Sunday evening (February 19).

Church warden Richard Taylor, who was instrumental in the transformation of St Margaret’s Church, said he hoped it would become a thriving community centre and a focal point for the village.

“This project has been a wonderful example of all parts of the village working together for the benefit of all. It has helped us re-create the original role of the church as a social and cultural centre for the village as well as a spiritual one.”

“The idea was to make the space much more flexible in the way it can be used. We now have foldable chairs rather than pews and can easily convert the church to make way for various community events,” he said.

The project was a pioneering partnership between the parish meeting – not a parish council as the village of 240 residents is too small – and the village church.

It involved re-fashioning the church’s nave so that it could double up as a village hall and included the building of an extension to provide toilet and kitchen facilities.

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The heating and lighting systems were also upgraded and a new wooden floor was added alongside disability access.

Joan Morgan, chairman of Wicken Bonhunt’s parish meeting, said: “It is clear from the turnout that the village feels very strongly about this new community centre and I am sure it will bring everybody together.

“We wanted to make sure that the youth of the community could be involved in our village church so that the next generation can look after it and hopefully take it to their hearts.”

Grants to finance the project included about �100,000 from Essex County Council – with the final �16,682 from its Big Society Fund.

The idea to open a new hub came about after the controversial closure of youth education facility Wicken House by the county council in 2008, which left the community without a place to meet.

It is hoped that the new multi-use facility will be used by residents of all ages to increase social interaction and participation.

“We are already running regular quiz nights, have art, book and garden and breakfast clubs in the church each month and occasional history exhibitions.

“There are also plans to hold concerts and anything else the community would like, such as family events and celebrations,” said Mr Taylor.

The new hub was officially unveiled by chairman of Essex County Council, Rodney Bass. It followed a rededication service led by the Ven Martin Webster, Archdeacon of Harlow.