CHURCHGOERS are set for an early Christmas present thanks to a waste company and hard-working villagers.

Only a year ago St James’ Church in Bishampton, near Pershore, was facing a bleak future, with a broken heating system and dwindling congregation numbers.

Now, following a £20,000 grant from Severn Waste’s Landfill Communities Fund, legacies and thousands of pounds raised by the Friends of St James, a new under-floor heating system has been installed together with a water supply to enable tea and coffee making.

Rector of the parish Clive Fairclough said: “This is such an exciting development. The transformation of the church is truly uplifting and inspirational, not only for Bishampton but for the other churches in the Flyford group.”

The work took three months to complete. Villagers embarked upon a big clean-up which saw them on their knees scraping adhesive off Victorian tiles – revealed under the old carpet.

With extra funding raised by the Friends, the tiles, installed at the turn of the last century by the renowned locally-born architect Frederick Preedy, have been fully restored.

Chairman of the Friends Martin Dickinson said: “It has been wonderful discovering this beautifully tiled floor. It really was a forgotten treasure.

“All those who supported the fund-raising throughout the year and who have pledged cash for future maintenance are very much to be congratulated.”

Leading the project in conjunction with the parochial church council has been architect and villager Victoria Poole, of Poole Phillips Associates, Pershore.

She came up with the idea of recycling the redundant pews to build a concealed kitchen area at the back of the church.

She said: “The PCC was looking for a sustainable and cost effective approach so refurbishing and re-using materials to hand was an obvious design strategy.”

A celebration of the new heating installation organised by the Friends was planned for Saturday. Today, Flyford Flavell First schoolchildren will be at St James for a carol service.