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Tiny village cares for its 'cathedral'

PUBLISHED: 08:10 31 December 2008 | UPDATED: 22:06 05 July 2010

LOOMING over low-lying marshes, Holy Trinity Church in Blythburgh is one of north Suffolk's most striking landmarks.

Now a successful village campaign has raised thousands of pounds to protect the church from the ravages of time and nature and secure its future.

LOOMING over low-lying marshes, Holy Trinity Church in Blythburgh is one of north Suffolk's most striking landmarks.

Now a successful village campaign has raised thousands of pounds to protect the church from the ravages of time and nature and secure its future.

With a population of just 200, Blythburgh, near Southwold, needed help to raise enough money to save the so-called “cathedral of the marshes” and called on people across East Anglia to help.

When the repairs appeal was launched in the autumn of 2007, the church was starting to show her age - the roof was leaking and stonework crumbling.

In just over a year, more than £140,000 has been raised and a major project to reroof the south aisle is already complete. Now the church's custodians need to find about £90,000 to cover the cost of re-pointing the flint walls.

Jenny Allen, one of the church wardens, said the work needed to be carried out this year because parts of the roof would soon have been beyond repair.

She said: “Looking after the church is a huge responsibility and this is a huge project to undertake. The roof work has gone really well and we're now moving on to phase two, which involves repointing the flint walls.

“People have been so generous and we are extremely grateful. We've had donations from far and wide. The church is well known to people who drive past or who have come here on holiday.”

She said that most of the donations to the cause came after the appeal was featured in The Journal in the spring, and the campaign was then picked up by national newspapers. Sky television even donated about £4,000 for repairs after the custodians gave them permission to use clips of the church in a television programme.

Records show that a church has stood on the south bank of the River Blyth since about 630 AD. Canons from Essex founded Blythburgh Priory in 1130 and Henry IV granted the right to build the present church in 1412.

It thrived for hundreds of years as a centre for worship for the small community but fell into disrepair, and in 1878 it was deemed unsafe and closed.

However major restoration works were soon under way and it reopened in 1884, signalling the start of more than 120 years of hard work and maintenance projects.

As well as being used for regular worship and community activities, Holy Trinity is a well-known landmark for motorists who drive along the A12 Lowestoft/Ipswich road

The impressive fundraising was helped by contributions from trusts and charities, including the Suffolk Historic Churches Trust, but more than half has come from individual donations.

Mrs Allen said: “We've got our fingers crossed that we can raise enough money to get the repointing done this year, and then the church should be good for at least another ten years.

“There are lots of smaller-scale jobs which need doing - there always seem to be more and more - but keeping the main fabric of the building sound is our priority.”

To donate to the Holy Trinity Church repair fund, visit www.holytrinityblythburgh.org.uk.

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