AN APPEAL has been launched to raise £500,000 to revamp a dilapidated church, which is one of the oldest in south Essex.

St Mary the Virgin, Benfleet, has rotting floorboards and needs new heating to keep its congregation warm this winter.

Church members, who have launched the appeal, already have £72,000 and have put in various grant requests to raise much-needed cash.

They are now appealing for the public to get behind them.

Diana Hawkins, church member, said it had been an aspiration for a while.

She said: “This really will be a major renovation of the church. The inside has been sadly neglected because there is lots of stuff we want to do and we can’t do it all at once.

“We want to put in new flooring and sort out the plaster because it isamess in places. We also need new heating.

“We need £500,000, but we’re confident we can do it.

“We have already put in requests for grant funding and are expecting replies soon.

“This will bring back St Mary’s to its former glory and make it a warmer and safer place.”

If theymanage to get the majority of the grants, the members hope to start work on the church this autumn and have the heating in place for the winter.

The rest of the work would follow and, hopefully, be completed in the new year.

St Mary’s Church is on the corner of Essex Way and the High Road Tradition has it that the foundation stones of the existing church were laid in 894.

It is believed an earlier church on the site was destroyed during the Battle of Benfleet between the Saxons and Vikings in 893.

To find out more about helping the church, or to fundraise, visit