Church tower damaged in storm is open again at last

TRIMLEY ST MARTIN: A church tower severely damaged by a storm more than two years ago has finally reopened after a lengthy fundraising effort.

The 16th century tower at Trimley St Martin church, High Street, was already in a poor state of repair when a night of gale-force winds and lashing rain finally caused irreparable damage in March 2008.

Large sections of the rendering on its north face broke away during the stormy night, exposing the old stone and mortar construction, made of septaria stone from the bed of the River Stour.

The church committee then embarked on a year-long battle to secure the �22,500 needed for the tower’s restoration.

Church treasurer Mark Davis said: “When I heard what had happened, I was worried about where we would get the money from straight away.

“We are struggling to pay our way just running this place and we have done for several years.

“It is a huge relief to see it completed, but I suppose we are bracing ourselves for the next side to need work.

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“The church is still heavily used for christenings, weddings and funerals in particular, so it’s important that we keep it as an active institution in our community.

“We can’t afford to lose our churches and pubs and village shops – they are the heart of the community.”

As well as more than �5,000 gathered from a village appeal and fundraising by church members, the parish secured sizeable grants from Trimley St Mary Parish Council, the National Churches Trust and Suffolk Historic Churches Trust, as well as a number of other smaller donations.

The other sides of the tower are likely to require similar work in the future.

The Rev Val White said: “I’m relieved to see one side finished, but it is a perpetual problem of old buildings and trying to maintain them.

“It distracts us from the mission of what a church should be about. The church is the people not the buildings, but we have inherited these so we have to look after them.

“But we are very grateful for the support we got from the community.”

The Rev White will be embarking on a sponsored cycle ride on Saturday, September 11, to raise money for Suffolk Historic Churches Trust. Anyone wishing to sponsor her can call 01394 286388.

n Are you glad to see the tower reopen? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk