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Royal approval for Three Solway Churches project

A project to mark the historic significance of three parish churches has received royal approval.

It came as His Royal Highness The Duke of Gloucester KG GCVO visited St Michael's Church in Burgh-by-Sands, today.

His visit marked the completion of work to the church including the introduction of welcome and information panels and other panels detailing the church's rich history.

Carolyne Baines is church warden of St Michael's and has been the project's leader.

She said: “It's been a wonderful day. It's the culmination of years and years of planning and to see it recognised in this way is unbelievable. We are so grateful.

“But the most important part of this, is that we are here today to offer to God what we as a group, as a village and as a parish have done.”

A 13th Century doorway which was blocked up in the 1880s has been reopened to improve disabled access to the church with disabled toilet facilities also being introduced.

The ground floor of the church's tower has been opened up as an historical display area and there's now a kitchenette for light refreshments.

Information and welcome panels have also been provided at Beaumont and Bowness-on-Solway churches as part of the scheme.

Civic dignatries, joined the royal visitor and villagers to celebrate the end of works.

Prior to the service the Duke was given a guided tour of the new facilities and also unveiled a new timeline stone in the grounds of the church, marking his visit.

Inside, pupils from Burgh-by-Sands, Kirkbampton and Bowness-on-Solway Primary Schools gave a drama presentation documenting the history of the Three Solway Churches.

Prayers were led by the Priest in Charge, the Rev'd Tudor Boddam-Whetham and the Bishop of Penrith, the Rt Rev'd Robert Freeman gave the blessing.

Bishop Robert said: “It's very nice to be able to bring all these people together who played such a key part in enabling this to happen.

“It's taken an enormous amount of vision and hard work and it's great that this can be celebrated within a service. This was not just a formal opening. It was part of worship and helped us to be reminded of the purpose of the church which is to serve the community and to worship God.”

At the end of the service The Duke was presented with an English pewter paperweight as a gift.

He told the congregation: “It's been a great pleasure to come here today. This is a very soundly built church.

“I'm delighted that your work will allow walkers to maybe come in here and to see for themselves the historical significance of this church. My congratulations go to all of those who have played their part in this work.”

Carolyne Baines says the project group feel that they have been guided throughout all the years of planning and since work began last year.

She added: “There were quite a few times when things could have gone wrong and they didn't, or things did go wrong but we found a way of rescuing things. I truly feel that this work was being blessed.”

The work was made possible following an £80,000 grant for the Heritage Lottery Fund and a Solway, Border and Eden LEADER grant of £10,621 from the Rural Development Programme for England.

For further information please contact Dave Roberts, Diocesan Communications Officer, on 07984 927434, 01228 560079 or at carlisledco@gmail.com.

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