Plan to turn the fire-affected Bixley Church into a home

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An 800-year-old church, destroyed by fire over ten years ago, will be turned into a house.

Wandregesilius Church in Bixley, south of Norwich, was nearly destroyed in an alleged arson attack in 2004, leaving only the shell of the building.

Since then, the building has been largely empty, with the Church of England (CoE) holding a public consultation on the transformation of the building into a house.


Image shows St Wandregesilius Bixley Church 1984-08-16
– Credit: George Plunkett

“In the years since the catastrophic fire a number of options have been explored for the church at Bixley,” said Venerable Steven Betts, Archdeacon of Norfolk.

“This current proposal will conserve much of the remaining ruins and allow visitors to visit the cemetery for those commemorated there.


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“We support this process which was assisted by the local authority granting the building permit for the changes.”

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Norwich said rebuilding the church would have been impossible due to the loss of the roof, windows and furniture, and any building would have been a ’21st century pastiche of an ancient church “.


Bixley Church (St. Wandregesilius) off Bungay Road B1332 - Firefighters keep the fire under it

FLASHBACK: Firefighters are fighting to bring the blaze under control.
– Credit: Eastern Daily Press © 2004

At the time of the fire, Bixley’s population was 27, with only one person on the church’s voters list.

Reverend Robert Parsonage, who had been in charge of the church since before the fire, said it was the best option.

“It’s very sad, it took us many years to get to this because we wanted to do the right thing,” he said.

“This is not the original goal, but it will preserve what there is of the ruin.”

Reverend Parsonage described the blaze as a frightening experience, but he was happy that no one was injured in the blaze, praising the firefighters for their work.

A consultation on the plans ended on June 24 and the church commissioners will now decide on its future and on the sale of the building for conversion to a house.

Permission to convert the building into a house has already been granted by the South Norfolk Council.

The church will be desecrated – a legal process rather than a religious one.

However, the cemetery, where there are recent graves, will remain consecrated and accessible to the public.

What is the history of the building and who is Wandregilius?

St Wandregesilius, or St Wandrille, was a 7th century French abbot from Verdun, France.

Bixley Church is considered the only church in the country dedicated to the saint, according to the Norfolk Heritage Explorer website.

The site has a long history, with a building believed to have been on the site since Saxon times.

The church was rebuilt in 1272, of which a first stone remains from this period.

The existing tower dates from the 14th century with subsequent modifications and repairs in the 17th and 19th centuries.

In May 2004, the building was devastated by fire.

It was reported at the time the fire could have been caused by vandals in the church using one of the gas cylinders used for heating.

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