Members of a village church are celebrating a windfall of thousands of pounds which will enable them to upgrade the building to make it more of a community asset.
St James’ Church, in Burton Lazars, has received a £10,000 National Churches Trust grant and a further £2,000 for a social action project to help local people.
The trust grant will ensure the church can install toilets for the first time and create a kitchen area to serve refreshments from.
They also plan to use the money to build a meeting room, put in a new heating system and rewire the electricity and lighting systems.
Jane King, pioneer minister at the church, which has stood on the site for more than 900 years, said: “This generous grant from the National Churches Trust is an important step in our journey to ensure that our lovely 11th century building remains a desirable venue for services, festivals and special family events.
“And the installation of the new facilities will enable us to serve the community in fresh and exciting ways, helped by the £2,000 Cinnamon Network Micro-Grant.”
St James’ Church provides a social focal point for the village, in partnership with the village hall.
However, activities have in the past been severely limited by the lack of a toilet, running water and effective heating and lighting.
The new facilities will provide a safe, comfortable and low cost venue for the wider community, for concerts, welfare initiatives, coffee mornings, a crèche and a carers group.
The £2,000 funding comes in the form of a National Churches Trust micro-grant, in partnership with the Cinnamon Network, to help the church care for the most needy in the community.
The Grade I listed St James’ Church has a 600-year-old font, a roof dating to the late medieval period with carved wooden bosses in the form of minstrels and stained glass windows reflecting its connection to the Order of St Lazarus.
The Order ran a leper hospital there from the 12th century to the Reformation.
The churchyard contains the graves of the Zborowski family, who built and raced cars, one of which was the inspiration for the star of the popular 1968 Chitty Chitty Bang Bang film.