Work Starts on Opening the Parish Church of St. Peter Swainsthorpe for wider use by the community
Grants totaling £45,000 from Lafarge Aggregates – Landfills Communities Fund, South Norfolk Council and the Norfolk Rural Community Council have been warmly welcomed by the Swainsthorpe Community Charity Trust, the prime movers in a plan which will see the Parish Church of St. Peter Swainsthorpe opened up for wider use by the community. “These grants bring our total fundraising to £80,000, the target we set ourselves some three years ago and enables us to start work on phase 1 of our community facility project” says David Chapman, Chairman of the Charity Trust. “The Church is at the heart of the community and there is no better site or building in which to create a community facility. However, the church in its present form is too restrictive and lacking the basic facilities of toilet, kitchen and community room; these are included in our plan”. Explaining how the local community has got behind the project, David Chapman goes on to say “This is the finest example of community spirit you will find anywhere and I must pay tribute to the Swainsthorpe Parochial Church Council for their vision and the Parish Council for their support for the project, but most of all to the local community and in particular the Project Ideas Group (PIGs) for their enthusiasm and tireless fundraising efforts locally. This has been a team effort and a determination by everybody to provide the people of Swainsthorpe with a warm and welcoming community facility within their historic Church.”
Swainsthorpe is a small village 5 miles south of Norwich with a population of 374 spread over 338 hectares. There are no shops here and the village does not have a school or village hall. The Parish Church of St. Peter, a round tower grade 2* listed building, is the main focal point located next to village green and is the only community building in the village. There are regular Sunday services and the building also acts as a community facility for locally organised events and activities. The closeness of the village green enables internal and external events to be combined successfully.
Despite its lack of facilities the community spirit is strong in Swainsthorpe and villagers often gather at regular events organised in the Church such as Bring and Buys, Art Exhibitions, Craft Shows, Flower Festivals, the Village Fete, Children’s Craft, Musical Evenings and History Meetings.
In 2008 the Community Steering Group conducted a survey of villagers the purpose of which was to establish whether the village wanted a community facility within their Church. The local community was asked what range of activities they would like to see organised, and whether they would actually use the facility. The result of the survey was an overwhelming vote in favour of establishing a community facility in the Church and this was endorsed at a Public Meeting on 20 April 2009.
The principal aim of “The Project” is to open up the Parish Church of St. Peter, Swainsthorpe as a community centre to provide suitable facilities and a warm and comfortable environment for the local community.
The ambition of the Swainsthorpe Community Charity Trust in collaboration with the Parochial Church Council and Parish Council is to provide a facility that will unite the community by providing a range of events and activities which currently are only available outside the village.
The refurbishment of the church to affect this has been split into three phases. The first phase of the work is the essential refurbishment necessary to create a sustainable usable community space in the existing church structure. It consists of six main elements:
- The removal of pews, leveling the floor, tiling floor to match existing and the purchase of stackable comfortable chairs to create flexible space.
- The introduction of mains water and mains sewer
- Provide a small kitchen area with a sink unit, water heater and cupboards.
- Install new radiant down heaters
- Upgrade the lighting and introduce sound for the hard of hearing.
- The provision of an external portable all users’ toilet facility, connected to the mains sewer, with hot and cold running water.
This project will enable the village to create a superb facility that will reach out and offer all sections of the local community a wide range of events and activities that they have requested. The new facility will bring the community together to improve learning skills through art and craft meetings, health and quality of life through organised exercise classes, companionship through organised coffee mornings, mother and toddler groups, youth groups to unite the children of the village and drop-ins for the elderly and disadvantaged.
The facility will be available most of the year for hire by independent groups, families and other members of the community and local residents
Further phases will deal with an extension for additional usable space, toilet facilities, kitchen and the creation (phase 3) of better parking and access facilities.
The present fund raising climate has prevented all three phases to be undertaken as one project. Phase 1 will provide much needed community facilities which include a temporary kitchen and toilet which will eventually be superseded by a kitchen and toilet in the proposed extension (phase 2) when funds permit. A planning permission for the extension has already been secured.