Massive English Heritage and Heritage Lottery Fund grant for Newport church

FUNDING for major improvements to a historic Newport church has been given a huge boost after �115,000 was ploughed into the project.

English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) announced that St Mary the Virgin would benefit from the grant as part of a �3 million pledge to 30 grades I and II- listed places of worship across the east of England. The large cruciform 13th century Newport church – which is grade I listed – is one of three churches in Essex to get funding from the scheme.

Neil Hargreaves, who is treasurer to the Friends of the church, said: “We are delighted with the grant – it is a huge amount of money and without it we would be nowhere near where we want to be in terms of fundraising.

“It is very encouraging at a time pressure on government funding that English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund are still able to help fund projects, and that our application was successful.”

The grant will make a huge difference to the fundraising, although estimates suggest that the project is still shy of the �226,000 required to give the 800-year-old building all the work it currently needs.

The roofs and timbers of the chancel and vestry are in a poor condition and showing signs of water penetration inside the church, and require urgent attention. Masonry repairs are also required to the south porch stairs, the south aisle, west buttress, north transept and gable parapet abutment.

“We are in the development phase of this latest project,” explained Mr Hargreaves. “Until the scaffolding goes up we don’t know in any great detail what needs to be done. This phase needs to be done this year; then we will know more about what really needs to be done.

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“So we are looking into 2012 before the actual conservation and repair work gets under way.”

Around 100 churchgoers attend a typical Sunday service at the church, which is also frequently used for weddings, baptisms and funerals, as well as educational visits and tourism – Mr Hargreaves called it an “integral part of the village community”.

“The Friends of the church are looking forward to working with English Heritage and the PCC to bring the work to improve it to a successful conclusion,” he added.