A COMMUNITY has raised more than £30,000 to save an historic Ryedale church.

Holy Epiphany Chapel in Butterwick, which is set in a hamlet of only nine house, is the focal point for the surrounding area and has been a place of worship for five generations.

However, plaster falling from the ceiling early last year signalled an urgent need to have the building re-roofed.

Churchwarden Jill Hopkins said, “If we didn’t tackle the problem, we knew we might have to close the church – we couldn’t have people getting hurt as the building decayed.

"The problem could only be solved by a restoration programme that involved re-roofing, new guttering, down pipes and soakaways, the stonewalls re-pointing, as well as interior work to replace rotten floor timbers; at an estimated cost of just over £30,000.

Jill added: “The work was urgent, and for many communities this might have been the moment to throw in the towel, but not for the residents of the hamlet of Butterwick, with its outlying farms and neighbouring village of Brawby.

"We feel that this small Victorian chapel is an iconic landmark. It is not only a special place of worship with a loyal congregation that swells to standing room only for special services, but a light and quiet place for contemplation.

Jill said they had held events such a day of ‘Beauty and Tranquillity’ when botanical artist Bridget Gillespie and wood carver Henry Leeson displayed their work in the church, and continued with coffee mornings and cake stalls.

"Local people pitched in by sponsoring roofing slates, and a local businessman was spurred into giving a generous donation after driving past the ‘cassockometer’, our fund raising thermometer with a difference.”

To mark the completion of the work a Celebratory service of Thanksgiving led by the Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu is being held on Sunday.

"Amazingly I was given a copy of a report from the Malton Gazette in 1896 refereed to a similar service to celebrate a major restoration, at the church," Jill said.

"Before the work was carried out the Rector declared that the building was quite unworthy of God’s service. Much of that sounds all too familiar."

The restoration work in 1896 was carried out by Messrs Gamble of Brawby, this year it was completed by Geoff Brewer formally of Brawby, and with strong family connections to the church.

"We hope that this latest round of restoration work will, with care, and hopefully the introduction of an effective heating system last for many decades to come," Jill added.

Archbishop Sentamu said: “Not only is Holy Epiphany Chapel a beautiful building, it is at the heart of the communities of Butterwick and Brawby. It’s heartening to see how the local people supported the fundraising efforts of the church. The future of this rural Christian building is now secure, and the community can be proud of restoring such an important part of their North Yorkshire countryside.

The service of thanksgiving starts at 6.30pm and will be followed by a celebratory drink and cake with Yorkshire cheese.