Church hosts first service in 13 years

Church warden Jane Meakin with previous church wardens Sandra Meakin and Maureen Stapleford and the oldest member of the congregation, Esme Faulks, at the Freeby Church harvest festival EMN-160410-113135001
Church warden Jane Meakin with previous church wardens Sandra Meakin and Maureen Stapleford and the oldest member of the congregation, Esme Faulks, at the Freeby Church harvest festival EMN-160410-113135001
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The first service to be held in Freeby Church for more than 13 years was held before a packed congregation on Sunday.

The harvest service was a hugely emotional occasion for all supporters of the newly renovated 14th Century Grade I-listed St Mary’s Church who had feared, at one stage, it was going to be knocked down.

Church warden Mel Greaves said: “We must have had at least 60 people in church for the service.

“A lot of people who lived in the village years ago came back for the service.

“I don’t think anyone could quite believe how lovely the building looked.”

The service was taken by Rev Catriona Cumming and residents brought produce which produced proceeds for the church fund.

Worshippers have been attending services at the tiny United Reformed Church chapel while the church has been closed for services.

Mrs Greaves explained: “About 25 years ago we noticed a very big crack running down one wall and it was getting worse and worse.”

A committee was set up to raise money for the renovations but it was a struggle and it was eventually decided to close the church about 13 years ago.

The tide turned when English Heritage agreed to contribute £132,000 towards the works if church members could raise the rest needed.

“It was an awful lot of money to raise and there were only eight of us trying to do it,” recalled Mrs Greaves.

“We were in despair really then. We did think the church was going to be knocked down.

“At the last moment the Churches Conservation Trust stepped in and said they were prepared to take it over. They moved their people in last year and they’ve done a lovely job.”

Rector of the Melton Team Parish, the Rev Kevin Ashby, who described the delapidated state of the church as ‘like something from a Gothic horror show’ said he was delighted with the £450,000 renovation work.

The church, which has had its electrics upgraded and its brickwork cleaned, can now hold six services a year, as well as weddings and funerals.

Peter Aiers, director north and south eastfor Churches Conservation Trust, said: “We are delighted that St Mary’s, Freeby, has been opened and saved by the work of the trust, one of the latest in a list of 350.

“It is so rewarding to see the local community using the church once more after so long away.

“Visitors can once again see this important historic building in its full glory.”