Nordelph church for the wrecking ball?
- From the EDP
Holy Trinity Church in the High Street in Nordelph, is going to be demolished for housing. Even Sir John Betjeman is believed to have written of Nordelph's sloping foundations when he visited the village in 1935.
Now, almost 75 years on, subsidence could sound the death knell for its church, which is once thought to have been visited by the poet laureate, broadcaster and architectural champion.
Plans are afoot to demolish the 19th-century church in the village near Downham Market to make way for six homes after it has been deemed too expensive to underpin the building.
Holy Trinity Church is just one of a number of ecclesiastical buildings in the Fens to have suffered problems with foundations after being built on the rich peat and clay soils of the area.
In the mid-1980s, Benwick Church near March was demolished. But at Ten Mile Bank, St Mark's Church was reopened earlier this year after closing seven years previously. The church had to find £390,000 for the job.
Sir John is thought to have visited Nordelph church when he came to Norfolk to meet a long-serving rector, the Rev Bradford, who was also a poet. In his private diary, Betjeman is reputed to have written: "Nordelph is miles away in the Norfolk fens, a village of two-storey houses, most of them sloping on unsafe foundations strung about with telegraph poles and electric light poles."
His observations proved correct, and 10 years ago the church was closed to worshippers and a meeting held to discuss its future.
Jane Logan, assistant secretary for the Ely diocese, said: "At the time, the costs to underpin were estimated to be £200,000; this was way beyond the parish's finances, and it was reluctantly decided in March 2003 to formally close it and for it to be demolished."
Plans for demolition have now been submitted to King's Lynn and West Norfolk Borough Council.
In 2002, the village hall was licensed for worship by the Bishop of Ely, the Rt Rev Anthony Russell, and this remains the place of worship for villagers today.
Parish clerk Ron Stannard said: "It has been on the cards for some time. I think the village hoped it would be repaired, but the cost of repairs is so enormous that they have to have it demolished."
Miss Logan said: "The main problem has been the soft peat and clay deposits on which it is built and the fact that the ground behind it has been raised but not sufficiently stabilised to support the structure. Thus, the subsidence shows throughout the building. Had it been localised, it would have been much easier to save."
Church explorer and creator of the Norfolk Churches website Simon Knott, says: "Some derelict churches are romantic, but this one isn't. It feels a sinister place. We fought our way through the nettles, past the 'Keep out' signs on the padlocked doors, to the graveyard. On the far side, the windows were all smashed, and the east window boarded up, the glass removed to storage.
"There are long cracks running through the Fletton brick. All about was a cold silence, except for wind from across the fen, rustling nettles and shaking, hanging guttering."
Holy Trinity was built in 1865 by John Giles, of London. An attempt to save the building was made in the early 1990s, and the south porch was removed in 1996.
Miss Logan said: "Nordelph is a fine building, but the type of damage caused was ongoing, whereas with some other churches remedial action has saved the building."
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