Village church to hold first service for more than 13 years

Freeby Church EMN-160930-142516001
Freeby Church EMN-160930-142516001
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The first service to be held in Freeby Church for more than 13 years will be taking place on Sunday (October 2).

The harvest service is set to be 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 explained: “About 25 years ago we noticed a very big crack running down one wall and it was getting worse and worse.

“We set up a committee to raise some money to look into it. Although we really worked our socks off fundraising, the money was going out quicker than it was coming in because we had all of the professional fees and everything to pay.

“We thought the church was slipping down the bank but apparently that wasn’t the case. As the crack was getting worse and it was going to be dangerous they decided to close the church about 13 years ago.”

She added: “English Heritage got involved and stepped in, saying it would give us £132,000 but we had to find the rest. It was an awful lot of money to raise and there were only eight of us trying to do it. 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 of it. They’ve made it safe, upgraded all the electrics and cleaned all the brickwork. It’s beautiful.

“Although they own it now we’re allowed to have six services a year as well as any weddings and funerals.

“It’s been such a rollecoaster and I think there will be a few tears shed on Sunday. We never really thought this day would come.”

Originally people had been asked to bring their own garden chairs to Sunday’s harvest service following the major renovation work.

But fortunately 40 chairs have been since been donated. All are welcome to attend the harvest service at 6.30pm on Sunday.

Rector of the Melton Team Parish, the Rev Kevin Ashby, said: “Over seven years ago, when I came for interview here, we went inside Freeby Church and my instant impression was of something from a gothic horror film.

“The place was in a dangerous state. The roof was in danger of falling in, the walls were in danger of falling out, the interior was covered in bat droppings and the church had not been used for services for some years. “All the talk was of closure and how to handle any resulting demolition.”

The renovated St Mary’s Church was revealed in April at a special open morning, where visitors could see the work carried out by the Churches Conservation Trust, which cost £450,000, in partnership with Historic England.