Historic church to close for 10 months

This photo of Melton's St Mary's Church was taken in 2011 EMN-161220-113040001
This photo of Melton's St Mary's Church was taken in 2011 EMN-161220-113040001
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Melton’s historic St Mary’s Church is to close for 10 months on January 2 to enable builders to carry out the biggest renovation for 200 years.

Sunday services, which attract around 120 worshippers, will be held at Melton Council’s offices in nearby Parkside.

Other services will be relocated to St Peter’s Roman Catholic Church in Welby Lane and the Samworth Centre on Burton Street.

The church, which dates back in parts to 1170 will be reopened in time for next year’s Remembrance services.

It will have underfloor heating, state-of-the-art lighting and a better quality organ and sound system.

The floor is also being levelled and toilets made more accessible to make it easier for disabled visitors to attend.

Another feature will be a Melton stained glass window.

The cost of the scheme, the Re-ordering Project, is in the region of £1.9 million, thanks partly to a sizeable contribution from the will of parishioner John Plumb.

There is a £500,000 shortfall which is still to be raised.

The rector, the Rev Kevin Ashby is preparing for a period of upheaval but is excited about the changes being made to the building.

He said: “It’s going to be hard work during the period of the closure.

“The building will be handed over to the builders and I will have to wear a hard hat if I go into the church.

“But it’s going to be great when it’s all finished to have underfloor heating and a lighter church, as well as all the other improvements.”

He added: “There are bound to be one or two people who are anti the changes but once they see how much better the church is I’m sure they will be happy.

“We had some people unhappy when we put in new chairs seven years ago but they were pleased whenthey saw the new seating.”

Perhaps the biggest change to the building will be the raising of the floor in certain parts to form a step-free access and make room for the underfloor heating to be installed.

There will also be a single level entrance to aid disabled visitors and a draught lobby is being created in the main West Porch so the doors can be kept open and act as a more welcoming feature.

Rev Ashby said: “The Victorians dug the floor level up in St Mary’s for theatrical reasons.

“Their aim was for people to go down as they entered and then up to the high altar.

“We’re basically putting it back to where it was and the whole building will be much more accessible as a result.”

The alternative venues for services, during the closure, were chosen because of their size and facilities, which are needed to accommodate the large weekly congregations.

Rev Ashby said: “The council and St Peter’s have been very kind in letting us use their buildings.

“St Peter’s has a decent organ and good choral services so it is an ideal venue for us.”

Rev Ashby added: “It will be different not being in St Mary’s for our services.

“But a church is about its people and not the building.”