A wall that has kept a village church cut in half for 45 years has finally come down.
Villagers watched as the first bricks were removed at St Mary’s Church in Bletsoe, marking the start of a major restoration project.
Daphne Waugh and Colin Deas, who have lived in the village all their lives and used to sing in the church choir, saw the wall go up and were there to see it come down. They both now have the first bricks which were removed as souvenirs.
During the 1970s, water damage meant that the chancel was bricked up and left to rot but now, after four years fundraising which has raised £230,000 including a major grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, the restoration of the chancel has started.
At the same time, unseen bits of history are being uncovered including the gravestone of the Rev Valentine Calton and wife Mary who died in 1729 and 1730. This stone is one that is being recorded by local volunteers while the whole project is being captured by media students from Sharnbrook Academy.
Work by stonemasons and archaeologists can begin the restoration of the chancel, bringing it back to life and turning it into a community resource. There will be a new kitchen and toilet in the restored space connected to the main building, with a glass screen filling the arch.