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Grade I listed church wins approval for modernisation
5:56pm Wednesday 13th March 2013 in News
A GRADE I listed church where a celebrated 18th century novelist served as curate has been given permission to modernise the interior.
Following initial objections from a conservation group, Church of England judge Canon Peter Collier QC has ruled that the Church of St Michael in Coxwold should be allowed to remove four pews from the west end of the nave, introduce a disabled toilet and a kitchen in the base of the tower.
After ten years of planning by the parochial church council, Canon Collier also approved a new upper floor to the tower with a balustrade to the west window, a new foul drainage system and changes to the font.
Although English Heritage said it had no objections to the proposals, as the church where Tristram Shandy author Laurence Sterne served is one of only two Grade I listed Georgian churches in the Diocese of York, conservationists the Georgian Group were also consulted.
Despite a pledge that almost all of the Georgian joinery would be re-used in the new works, the Georgian Group said the “removal of box pews would be damaging to the quality and significance of the church’s interior”.
It argued that changes to the “outstanding quality and completeness of the 18th century fixtures and fittings within the church” should only be contemplated as a last resort.
However, after a visit to the church, Canon Collier said it was clear the benefits to the community outweighed the architectural losses.
He said during the visit it became apparent there had been significant alterations to the Goergian woodwork during the early 20th century and that the essential features of the church would be unaffected.
Canon Collier said: “The concept of going to church is no longer seen as arriving a moment or two before the service starts and leaving immediately the blessing is pronounced.
“The expectation at St Michael’s, as in many if not most churches now, is that the service will be followed by an opportunity to ‘share fellowship’ as people have refreshment and talk with one another.”
A Diocese of York spokeswoman said it was pleased the scheme had been approved as church leaders had been concerned for some time about the poor facilities.
She said there was a clear need for space to socialise after services, to improve the kitchen facilities and for a suitable room for meetings.