Shantymen back £250,000 appeal to renovate historic parish church

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Worshippers at one of West Norfolk’s most famous churches are calling for new ‘Friends’ to help them raise £250,000 to fund repairs and improvements to the building.

A new Friends group has been established to co-ordinate the fundraising drive at St Mary’s Church in Snettisham, which is often dubbed the cathedral of West Norfolk because of its imposing 175ft tower and spire.

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And the Lord Nelson Shantymen, who are based in Burnham Thorpe, will be giving a concert in aid of the cause at the church tomorrow night.

The campaign was launched after a survey of the 14th century building, whose original steeple was built by John of Gaunt, a son of King Edward III, identified a number of problems which experts say should be resolved within the next two years.

Although the Friends group has been raising funds to renovate the archway and lantern at the front of the building, it is estimated that the final repair bill alone will be around £150,000, because of other issues that need to be tackled including renovations of the building’s stonework.

As part of the project, church leaders also want to develop a heritage room, in the church’s vestry, and a cafe, which they hope will encourage more visitors to use the facility all year round.

The Rev Geoff Suart, who is rector of St Mary’s, as well as the nearby parishes of Fring and Ingoldisthorpe, said: “It’s a magnificent church. It has the spire, it’s imposing. It’s a landmark in the area and has been for centuries.

“The congregation have done what they can but we need the extra support and income.”

Campaign officials are working on grant applications and anyone who wants to support the appeal can become a friend of the church, which can seat 270 worshippers, for £25 per year.

Tomorrow’s concert at St Mary’s will start at 7pm. Further fundraising events are planned over the coming months, including a Caribbean-themed event, which is due to take place in July.

Admission is £7.50 on the door or in advance by phoning 01485 541301.