After eight years, work has started on a £150,000 project to renovate and improve St Edmund’s Church in Downham.
The exterior and interior scheme is aimed to make the Grade I listed building, which is the oldest in Downham, more accessible to all members of the community.
The church porch has had a make-over with a new slope fitted along with plans to add toilets and baby-changing facilities and a new stained glass window.
Work is hoped to be finished in April when the Bishop of Richborough, Norman Banks, will be unveiling the window.
But once this work is finished the church team will be looking at a £750,000 project to maintain the roof and electrical installations.
Fr James Mather said the project was started as part of the church’s response to disability legislation.
He said: “After eight years in the planning, we are delighted that work is well underway on the long awaited building project to improve accessibility for all and the church facilities.
“The church is Downham’s oldest building and the town’s only Grade I listed building. We are in the same category as Ely Cathedral and St Paul’s Cathedral. The work planned had to be of the highest quality.
“What we are doing is meeting the identified needs but in a way that honours and respects the past story and its continuation.
“We have wanted to make it easier for people to go in and out of the building but we have also wanted to make it more inviting.”
The church has been working with architect Oliver Caroe, who has also undertaken projects at Rippon Cathedral and St Paul’s.
Work has been undertaken on the porch to add a slope along with reinstating the lime plaster work which had been removed by the Victorians which will be decorated with a lime wash. The wood stain is also being altered and removing the door latch, which has been a problem for some people.
Inside the church, some of the Victorian furniture is being removed to create a clearer welcome space along with re configuring the baptistry.
A wheelchair accessible toilet with baby-changing facilities and kitchen are included in the project along with a crèche area for youngsters. A small meeting room is also included.
The 1970s patio door which was installed in the church some time ago will be replaced with a screen with panels, which are being designed and painted by John Maddison, who has been involved in projects in Ely Cathedral.
Another artist, Helen Robinson, has been commissioned to create a stained glass window to mark the Queen’s diamond jubilee, which will compliment another stained glass window to mark the Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee.
This project is funded from the church’s savings with an anonymous donor paying for the window and it will be unveiled by Bishop Norman on April 26 at 10.30am.
The work is being undertaken by Flanders Services, which is based in Ely.
Fr Mather said: “I am very pleased with how the work is going and I think it is going to make a big difference. I have had comments from the congregation along with the community and visitors.”