Work starts on transforming remote church

Shelley Church. Picture by Anglia Press Agency.
Shelley Church. Picture by Anglia Press Agency.

The tiny Suffolk hamlet of Shelley has no shop, no pub, no school, no village hall, one street and fewer than 50 inhabitants.

Now in an extraordinary story of determination and hard work, villagers have raised thousands of pounds to transform their remote 13th century church into a meeting place that will become the hub of the community.

Thanks to intensive fundraising and two major grants, All Saints’ Church will get its own kitchen and toilet.

Since fundraising started five years ago, the small congregation, along with the rest of the village, have worked tirelessly to hold a string of functions and events.

Now, with the help of a £20,000 grant from a landfill community fund and further cash from the Garfield Weston Foundation, the scheme can begin.

Churchwarden Andrew Scott said: “We wanted to widen the use of the church and make it more comfortable for visitors.

“WCs in churches have become more and more essential and we want to be able to offer anyone who attends services and events the convenience of modern facilities.

“It will enable people from further afield to join us for services, including weddings, as well as meetings and exhibitions.

“It is important for Shelley, since the church is the village’s only public building and the centre of village life.

“We held lots of local fundraising events since 2012 and we are very grateful to everyone who has helped with the fundraising and to all the bodies that have awarded us grants.”

Experts believe All Saints’ Church was built in the late 13th or early 14th century, with its tower constructed a century later. Unusually, the tower is at the north end of the church as access is from the south.

The vestry was originally a chapel built for the Tylney family after the Reformation, as nearby Shelley Hall was the family seat at the time.

Thomas Tylney married Elizabeth Gosnold Tylney, sister of Bartholomew Gosnold, who founded Jamestown, the first English settlement in America, and is buried within the church.

In 2005, after the discovery near Jamestown of a grave believed to be that of Bartholomew Gosnold, the remains entombed in Shelley were exhumed so that a DNA comparison could be made.

But identification of the Jamestown body remains uncertain, as the body in All Saints’ Church – thought to be Elizabeth’s – turned out to be that of a much younger woman, possibly Anne Framlingham, who had married Philip Tylney, of Shelley Hall, in 1561 and died around 1601.