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Appeal will help salute Lowestoft's war heroes

Jennifer Tucker and Gill Battrick, who are members of the WW1 commemoration committee, led by Arthur Sparkes. They are pointing to Tom Crisp's name.
They said the exhibition would be part of Open Churches week commencing August 4.
They were appealing for any WW1 artefacts, photos or equipment to be put on display.
They are also painting poppies (5” tall) to make a border.
Pictures: MICK HOWES

Jennifer Tucker and Gill Battrick, who are members of the WW1 commemoration committee, led by Arthur Sparkes. They are pointing to Tom Crisp's name. They said the exhibition would be part of Open Churches week commencing August 4. They were appealing for any WW1 artefacts, photos or equipment to be put on display. They are also painting poppies (5" tall) to make a border. Pictures: MICK HOWES

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An appeal has been issued to the people of Lowestoft to help safeguard a lasting tribute to townsfolk who died serving their country in the First World War.

Rev Michael Asquith, rector at St Margaret's Church, Lowestoft.
Photo: Andy DarnellRev Michael Asquith, rector at St Margaret's Church, Lowestoft. Photo: Andy Darnell

St Margaret’s Church needs to raise funds to repair and renovate its chapel which is the home to town’s war memorial – a roll of honour listing 727 men who lost their lives.

It comes as the nation prepares to make the centenary of the start of the First World War in August.

At present, the chapel walls are falling victim to damp and are in need of urgent repair.

But the church hopes that the first stage of its appeal will raise £5,000 to help protect the chapel and its roll of honour, which attracts people from across the UK and abroad – many of whom visit Lowestoft to research their relatives’ wartime deeds and roles.

The support of the public will be vital as the appeal comes as St Margaret’s faces up to a £59,000 shortfall in funding because of a dramatic fall in the donations it receives from churchgoers.

Churchwarden Arthur Sparkes, who is leading the chapel repair group, said he hoped the approach of the centenary events this summer would prompt people to rally round. He said: “The chapel is now in need of urgent repair and maintenance.

“The damp is getting into all the walls and we need to repair them with lime plaster. We really do need to have £5,000 in the bank to start us off so we can do something.

Mr Sparkes is organising a First World War exhibition at the church in early August which will help to raise funds for the chapel appeal.

He said: “We cannot afford morally to let the memorial go into disrepair. It is the official war memorial of the town and it is a lasting tribute to those who lost their lives.”

As well as raising funds for the chapel work, St Margaret’s Church needs to find £59,000 to cover the costs of its paid ministry – provided by its rector the Rev Michael Asquith and Capt Paul McDonough – for the next eight months.

A worst case scenario could see Capt McDonough eventually lose his role with Mr Asquith being forced to divide his time between St Margaret’s and another church.

The funding gap is mainly down to a large fall in donations and collections of about £45,000 over the 12-month period ending in April.

St Margaret’s has already looked at ways of generating extra revenue, such as hosting birthday parties in its hall, but the demand has not been there so far. It has also increased fees for “occasional hirers” of the church by 10pc.

In the latest church newsletter, Mr Asquith tells parishioners there is no “magic pot of money” to address the funding gap and that it is “not something that can be brushed under the carpet”.

He says the issue will be top the agenda at the parochial church council’s meeting in July, where discussions will focus on ideas to address the shortfall.

Mr Asquith said: “We are short of £59,000 for our parish share and it is our responsibilty. It is something that won’t go away.”

He said he hoped that, as well as supporting the chapel appeal, the people of Lowestoft would make donations to the church as a whole.

“I feel there are so many people in Lowestoft who have an affinity with St Margaret’s and I hope very much they can support us,” he said.

“We want to renovate the chapel area. It is important that in this year, particularly we think of those who gave their lives for the freedom we have today.”

Waveney MP Peter Aldous knows St Margaret’s Church well and said he was right behind the appeal.

He said: “The launch of the appeal comes at an appropriate time as the country reflects on the centenary of the start of the First World War and I fully support the appeal which will provide an appropriate tribute to those from Lowestoft who fought and gave their lives in that conflict.”

The First World War history exhibition will be held at St Margaret’s and its hall from Tuesday, August 5 and on the first day the church will ring its bells to mark the centenary of the start of the war.

As well as the chapel appeal, the church is asking for people donate items to display in the exhibition. There will also be concerts and children’s activities.

■Anyone keen to support the appeal or provide items for the exhibition should call Mr Sparkes on 01502 584320 or email at arthursparkes@madasafish.com

■Anyone who wants to hold a birthday party at he church hall can call Mr Asquith on 01502 573046 or email rector@stmargaretslowestoft.co.uk

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