Final service at St Mary the Virgin Church in Ayston

Sunday afternoon's congregation pictured with the Bishop of Peterborough, the Rt Rev Donald Allister and Rector of Uppingham
Sunday afternoon's congregation pictured with the Bishop of Peterborough, the Rt Rev Donald Allister and Rector of Uppingham

A VILLAGE church held its final public service on Sunday before it closed its doors for good.

St Mary the Virgin Church in Ayston has been struggling to make ends meet as congregation numbers have dwindled.

In the last few years the church has been open for Sunday worship only on the morning of the second Sunday of the month and for evening service on the fifth Sunday of the month when they occur.

There were usually on average about six people in the congregation, the majority from outside the village.

Treasurer Roy Farmer says it has not become sustainable to keep the church open as it needs remedial work and there are patches of damp.

He added: “It is a very attractive church from the outside and it is pretty inside.

“Parts date back to the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries.

“But if we had kept it open we would not have been able to afford the work.

“Unfortunately Ayston is not unique and churches are closing all over the country.”

On Sunday a final service was held at the church led by the Bishop of Peterborough and it was attended by about 120 people from the Uppingham and Ayston areas.

Mr Farmer said: “You would have to go back into the history books to find the last time the church had a congregation that large.”

Now that the church has closed it has been passed into the hands of the Diocese of Peterborough which is looking for a suitable body to take it on.

Mr farmer said: “One of the historical church societies is interested in taking it on but as we are in summer recess at the moment we will not know the outcome until later in the year.

“They will work to preserve the church and it will be opened to the public by the person who keeps the keys.

“People travel from all over the country to look at historic churches.

“It is a shame that a church which has been worshipped in for 600 years will end up being a monument.”