Ancient Freeby church to reopen after 13 years

St Mary's Church in Freeby, Leicestershire, dates from the early 14th Century
Image caption St Mary's Church in Freeby, Leicestershire, dates from the early 14th Century

An ancient church which was at risk of demolition is holding its first service for 13 years.

St Mary's in Freeby, near Melton Mowbray, was in poor repair and was due to be demolished because parishioners could not raise enough cash to restore it.

Last year the Churches Conservation Trust stepped in and restored the 14th Century building.

Churchwarden Mel Greaves said the church was in danger of falling down.

Image copyright Peter Rogan Associates
Image caption Large cracks appeared in the church in the 1980s and it was closed in 2001

Cracks first started appearing in the building, which dates back almost 700 years, in the 1980s.

Parishioners raised funds to investigate the cause of the problem but in 2001 the structure was considered unsafe and it was closed.

English Heritage offered £132,000 but with the bill potentially running to several hundreds of thousands more, parishioners from the village of 40 people doubted they could save their church.

Rev Kevin Ashby said: "The roof was in danger of falling in, the walls were in danger of falling out, and THE floor was covered in bat droppings.

"It looked like the Addams Family home."

Ms Greaves said: "We were in despair and we did think the church was going to be knocked down.

"But at the last moment the Churches Conservation Trust stepped in and said they were prepared to take it over. They've done a lovely job of it. They've made it safe, updated all the electrics and cleaned all the brickwork - it's beautiful."

The repairs, which cost £450,000, were paid by contributions from English Heritage and the Church of England, and involved protecting a maternity roost for Natterer's bats.

The church will hold six services a year plus any weddings and funerals.

The Churches Conservation Trust has also taken over the nearby St Botolph's at Wardley in Rutland, parts of which date from the 12th Century.

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