The renovation of a 150-year-old church hall is well underway after the community pulled out all the stops to help raise £82,000 in just a year.
Building work has started at the March Catholic Church hall in St John’s Road, and it is hoped the modern new venue will be ready to open in the New Year.
The oldest part of the hall, which used to be a barn and the original church before the current church opened in 1952, will remain and the rear of the building has been demolished to make way for a 21st century facility, with a new kitchen, meeting room, office and toilets.
The work will also see the hall directly linked to the church for the first time.
Church priest, Father Paul Maddison, said it had been an “incredible” year leading up to this point, thanks to the generosity of local people.
He said plans to refurbish the hall were drawn up last year, and the Diocese of East Anglia agreed to loan the £220,000 total cost of the project.
“The building was tired and dated, with a lack of decent facilities and poor accessibility. It needed to be brought alive again,” he said.
“We started fundraising last September and we managed to raise £82,000 towards the cost in just a year. It’s been incredible.”
The achievement meant building work could get underway, as fundraising to pay back the rest of the Diocese loan continues.
Father Maddison said the church received grant funding from various charities and trusts, with the rest being raised from individual donations and fundraising events in the community.
Regular garden tea parties organised by members of the congregation throughout the summer raised a bumper £2,500, and a summer fete in June raised more than £1,500.
“The garden parties were a huge success, so much so we ought to do a sponsored slim from all the cake we ate over the summer!” joked Father Maddison.
Several groups and organisations have already expressed an interest in using the new hall, which is expected to open in mid-January.
Father Maddison said: “The renovated hall will provide a much-needed resource for our parish, for the town and beyond. It is also hoped that the facilities will provide a venue for concerts, lectures and other community events.
“We are now working hard to raise the rest of the funds but the generosity of those both inside and outside the parish has been wonderful.”