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St Peter’s Church, Forncetts awarded grant of over £33,000

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Upper Tas Valley All Saints Parochial Church Council (PCC) has received initial support* from The National Lottery Heritage Fund for Forncett: Village of Stories – the Restoration of St Peter’s Church.

The church is located in the village of Forncett St Peter, two miles from Long Stratton, South Norfolk. Development funding of £33.274 has been awarded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund to help the Friends of St Peter’s, on behalf of the Upper Tas Valley PCC, progress their plans to apply for a full National Lottery grant at a later date.

The project aims to carry out detailed investigations to understand the causes of structural instability particularly affecting the roofs and the flint walls of the church. Intrusive work on site is likely to start in April 2023, fitting around the needs of the resident bat population, although it is likely that the church will need to close for only short periods during the year.

Consultation with the local community, including the adjacent Forncett St Peter’s Primary School, will lead to the development of a programme of community activities where the continuity and excitement of history and nature bring people of all ages and backgrounds together to explore, enjoy and celebrate a shared heritage.

The Grade 1 listed building has been on the Heritage at Risk Register since 2019 when the Friends of St Peter’s was formed to spearhead the campaign to save it from catastrophic deterioration. An active place of worship, St Peter’s reflects the ever-evolving story of Forncett over the last 1,000 years and has helped shape local identity – something that ‘A Village of Stories’ will celebrate.

Activities will explore the many unique heritage learning points found at St Peter’s and will allow for a much deeper engagement and connection between the community and its heritage by supporting all age learning, skills development, and community wellbeing.

The work made possible this year will identify and generate specifications and accurate costs for a major structural restoration, hopefully in 2024-26, and a programme of activities allowing the building to fulfill its role as a heritage hub.

St Peter’s has a striking Anglo-Saxon / Norman round tower, thought by some to be the finest in the country. Other Saxon features, the alabaster Drakes’ tomb dating from 1485, a unique 16th-century tower stair and a remarkable set of pew carvings make this building a focus of stories from history and into the future of a lively community.

Commenting on the award, Terry Hickman-Smith (Project Steering Group) said: “We’re delighted that we’ve received this support thanks to National Lottery players. St Peter’s has been a focal point for the community for a thousand years. It’s great to know that we are a step closer to preserving it for the next thousand.”