East Preston villagers' boost to church

VILLAGERS in East Preston have joined forces with their local church to help raise more than £50,000 needed to maintain the building. The running costs of the 1,000-year-old grade 1 listed St Mary the Virgin Church are so high that earlier this year a proposal to install a mobile phone mast in the clock tower was even considered to bring in much-needed funds.

At the time, the vicar, John Lyon, said that it could only go ahead if local people agreed and in July, after several letters of objection, the offer was turned down.

This left the church still needing around £50,000 to carry out essential maintenance work on damp in the building and when coupled with the annual running costs of around £7,500, makes for a serious deficit.

Stepping into this breach came a group of local residents, some of whom do not even attend the church, who are determined to save it.

Sarah Leighton, 47, of Vicarage Lane, is one of those who has stepped forward to support the church.

She said: "I'm not religious but I feel that the church is an important part of our community and of our history. It would be a real shame if it was to fail. It's a link to the past for people in the area and is part of our heritage.

"There were a group of us who were against the mast and we said that if the offer was turned down we would help the church start a fund-raising drive.

"We are doing a leaflet-drop to everyone in the village to make them aware of the church's funding difficulties and then we will be looking at how we can raise the cash.

"Anyone with ideas and enthusiasm is welcome to join us."

Father Lyon told the Gazette: "The church belongs to the people and I always said that if there was sufficient opposition to the mast it would not go ahead, but it had to be considered.

"It's very important that we have the support of the community and I am grateful for it."

lSeveral fund-raising ideas are in the offing, including a flower festival. The first event takes place on Saturday, when the Millionheirs barbershop group will give a carol concert at the church, at 7pm.

Tickets are £8, including refreshments, and are available on the door.

18 December 2006

All rights reserved © 2006 Johnston Press Digital Publishing.

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