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Thetford church café work under way

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The congregation of a Thetford church has raised more than £200,000 to help make the building more accessible for the community.

Work on St Cuthbert’s Church, in King Street, began in February to construct a community café inside the 13th century building.

The Revd Dr Peter Herbert, Rector of St Cuthbert’s said: “Changes in society mean that our buildings need to adapt to better serve their community’s needs. Our challenge at St Cuthbert’s is to redevelop the building to keep it a hub of Christian and community life in Thetford.”

Work under way on the new hall, toilets and community café at St Cuthbert’s Church Picture: Mark Westley
Work under way on the new hall, toilets and community café at St Cuthbert’s Church Picture: Mark Westley

Ideas for the Grade II listed church go back 15 years, but were on hold after a large crack was found in one of the church’s corners and needed £80,000 to repair it, now the project is back on track and eight weeks ago they hit their £212,000 target.

Rod Back, one of the church wardens, said: “It has taken a lot of work from the congregation with many dances, dinners, garden parties and curry and quiz nights, not to mention the work in getting many grants to help us hit our target. It is a phenomenal achievement.”

Grants were given by organisations such as the National Churches Trust, Breckland Council and Thetford Town Council.

Demolition of the church’s toilets has begun with plans to install a catering kitchen, a new toilet block with disabled toilets and the removal of some pews for café seating.

Rod said: “We looked at a similar project at St Stephen’s Church in Norwich and decided that is what we wanted to do. It is such an historic building in town and we want people to spend more time in it.”

The café initiative wants to provide jobs, training and work experience placements for disadvantaged people to help them get back into employment.

This first project is due to be completed in September, followed later by the next stage, estimated to cost around another £130,000, which will see the removal of central pews being replaced with seats and a leveling of the floor- making the central area accessible.

Rod said: “This would give us the chance to open the whole space to people for their weddings and receptions, or for us to hold concerts for choirs and groups, it will make the church such a focal point in the centre of our town.”