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Maurice to quit after Norfolk church vandalism

ShimplingChurch400A Norfolk man is set to end his 45-year association with a redundant rural church in the county following break-ins and vandalism after a national newspaper labelled it as one of the ‘creepiest abandoned places in Britain’ alongside disused asylums, mortuaries and detention barracks. Keith Morris reports.

Maurice Philpot’s involvement with the parish of Burston and Shimpling and its people began in 1958 with Burston chapel. He went on to occupy the clerkship of the Parish Council and serve as a Trustee of the Strike School.  In 1985, he was awarded Honorary Citizenship of the Parish.
He has been involved with St George’s Church, Shimpling, since 1971, but has decided the time has come to relinquish this last connection with the parishes.  His final duty, on September 10, will be to sign in participants in the day-long Norfolk Churches Trust sponsored cycle ride – which ends at 5pm.
Whilst it was a Parish Church, he served the parish in various capacities, including secretary, treasurer and organist, and he was still churchwarden when the building - and he - were declared redundant on June 1, 1987.
Following the vesting of the building in the Churches Conservation Trust, he continued to serve as a volunteer - organising events and services and endeavouring to keep the church clean. But recently the church has been subject to an unprecedented spate of theft and vandalism, leading to his decision to retire.
“The catalyst, to make me think about the final break has been a number of theft and nuisance incidents since the beginning of this year.  A number of objects have been stolen - after the door to the tower was forced on several occasions,” said Maurice. “It has been attacked again over this last weekend. This has involved reporting to the police and the Churches Conservation Trust and much form filling - as well as increasing anxiety.  I should say that it is the policy of the Trust that their churches should be open. 
“Most of this foolishness I place at the door of The Sun newspaper, which published an article about the 'most creepiest places to sleep in Britain', including in it Shimpling church. This obviously attracted every crank and continues to do so.”
During the last eight years Maurice has also had a growing involvement with a benefice of eleven churches in the Diocese of St Edmundsbury and Ipswich
A coalition of people from Burston and Shimpling Parish Council and Dickleburgh Parochial Church Council now organise events.  The Churches Conservation Trust, which is a statutory organisation funded by the taxpayer and the Church of England, will continue to care for the fabric of the building, which they have done since June 1, 1987.  
Maurice said it has been a privilege to have been involved with this special building, and recorded his thanks to the many people who have shared in its care; he will retain many happy memories. 
Read our previous story on this topic
Picture of Shimpling church, courtesy of

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