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Plea for help: Church Warden Jane Meakin and her dog Truffles in St Mary's Church, Freeby.

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A beautiful sight: St Mary's Church, Freeby.
 

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Above and below: Plastic sheeting is used to cover items to protect them from bat droppings in the church.

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Plea to help clean church


A heartfelt plea for help has been made by Church Warden Jane Meakin to make sure that St Mary's Church, Freeby, is looking spick and span for its Harvest Festival Service on Sunday, October 7th at 6.30pm.

But it's not a job for the faint-hearted. In fact, it's fair to say the church is in a bit of a mess now. Bats' mess to be precise.

And, sadly, it's a far cry from two years ago when the building underwent major renovation work and took on a new look after it had been closed to the public when it was deemed no longer safe for community use for 13 years after it fell into disrepair. A lengthy project, including re-roofing, re-glazing, re-pointing and installing a lighting scheme, got under way. 

The building looked amazing. It was taken over by The Churches Conservation Trust, which carried out the work in partnership with Historic England.

Crispin Truman, Chief Executive at The Churches Conservation Trust at the time of the work, told those present at the grand opening that it was wonderful to see the church brought back to life.

"This church is 600 years of history and it has been so important to make sure this building is saved, not only for the nation but for the local community," he said.

He added that the cost of restoring the medieval Grade 1 listed building was £450,000 and the key to the work was working together.


How hollow those words must seem now to Jane, who is 78 years old, and who moved to the village when she married her husband, Graham, 50 years ago and has been a Church Warden at St Mary's for more than 35 years.

The problems are two-fold. Over the years the congregation has dwindled from seven or eight people to two, due to people leaving the village, making it unviable to hold services, and the other problem is that the church is home to a maternity roost for rare Natterer's bats.

The building looks nothing like it did when the work was completed two years ago. Plastic sheeting now covers items in the church to protect them from bat droppings but Jane and two other people have pledged to get the building clean and tidy for the Harvest Festival Service. And that's when they could do with some extra pairs of helping hands.

On Thursday, October 4th from 2.30pm the plucky trio are donning their plastic gloves, face masks and reaching for their hoovers, mops and brushes and they would love you to join them.

"More hands make light work. It would be lovely to see some more people helping us. It is heart-breaking for me seeing the building how it is now covered in bat droppings," said Jane.

Her husband Graham was organist at the church but sadly died a year before the renovation work to the building took place.

"He would have loved it. The place looked amazing,"Jane added.

Ironically, Jane says that a regular congregation of seven or eight people would allow them to hold regular services again.

"It would just be lovely to see a few more people in the church again," said Jane.

So if you have a few hours free on Thursday, October 4th from 2.30pm, Jane and her helpers would love to see you.

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Above and below:  Pictures taken two years ago after the building underwent major renovation work.

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Phil Balding, 01/10/2018