Work to restore and improve All Saints' Church in Brightlingsea – scheduled to start in July – will mean that the building has to be closed to the public for at least the rest of 2022 and some of 2023.
Last week the parish of Brightlingsea and the Friends of All Saints' were given the go-ahead for work to begin on restoring the Tudor tower, which has been closed to the public for some time for safety reasons, and the construction of an extension for an indoor toilet and kitchenette. The work is mostly being paid for by a £498,000 grant from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Health and safety requirements around the repair work on the the 97ft tower – which will see it surrounded with scaffolding – will mean the 13th C church has to be off limits. That means services, weddings, christenings, funerals and events including the Christmas Tree Festival and Choosing Day will be relocated to St James' Church in the High Street. Couples planning weddings have been told of the impending closure and organisations planning events have also been made aware. While funeral services won't be able to take place in All Saints, burials will still be able to go ahead in the churchyard.
Project group chair Elizabeth Foss-Smith said that the town was fortunate to have two churches so that disruption can be kept to a minimum while the work, the culmination of a five-year project, is carried out. When the work is finished, the aim is to have a building that will be better able to host music, arts and other community events, and make more of its maritime history.
The team behind the project had some professional help with its funding application and has had to consult with around 50 local organisations to garner support. "The Lottery people have been very impressed with the support from the community," said Mrs Foss-Smith.