WORK has begun on a £600,000 project to refurbish the interior of a 700-year-old church.

Rayleigh’s Holy Trinity Parish Church is having work done to update its heating, lighting and accessibility.

Plans to revitalise the church, which dates back to 1320, have been in the works for 12 years.

The building’s heating, lighting and electrical system will be completely renewed to be more energy efficient.

The walls, will be cleaned and repainted with limewash, with old paint which was causing damp carefully stripped from the walls.

“It took a long time to get the plans together and get the permissions required,” Gordon Simmonds, chair of Holy Trinity Church Refurbishment Group, explained.

“As a listed church we don’t go through normal secular planning, apart from changes to the outside, which we aren’t making. We have a system called faculty approval which is presided over by high court judges.

“Not much has been changed in the church’s interior since the 60s, when it was painted with what turns out to be an inappropriate paint, so that all has to be stripped off carefully.”

Mr Simmonds believes a vinyl paint was used when it was last decorated, but as there was no damp course in the church, the paint began to absorb water and cause damp issues.

The old pipe organ, which Mr Simmonds says is “beyond economic repair” is being replaced by a digital organ which the refurbishment group chair says “really does sound like a real pipe organ”.

“We are having to replace all the 1930s electrics and fittings and replace it with new wiring and new LED lighting, which will not only make the building much more attractive, but more energy efficient. We are changing the heating system with the same view in mind," he continued.

“It will then be redecorated, and we hope much more suitable for the current age and hopefully for the next 100 years.”

Most of the funding was donated from a group called the Friends of Holy Trinity Rayleigh who hold events throughout the year. The rest was sourced from The Church, grant and community members.

“We still need a bit more money and would be very glad if any members of the community would like to join in,” Mr Simmonds added.