‘Bishop told me decision taken’

Richard Marker speaks out.

Prominent landowner and businessman Richard Marker, a patron of St Michael’s Church, says he received a letter from the Bishop of Exeter in June last year stating a decision had already been taken by the Parochial Church Council to close the church.

“So, are you open to discussion still?” he asked the rector at a public meeting.

Reverend Christopher Futcher, the Archdeacon of Exeter, replied: “We are seeking to begin a process towards closure.”

Mr Marker, a staunch supporter of the church and a former member of its disbanded management committee, said of the Grade II* Listed Building: “It’s over 500 years old.

“Even in 1911, when it burnt down and St Paul’s was here, they took the choice to rebuild it.

“There was a strong feeling about St Michael’s back then and there is a strong feeling now.

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“It is the most beautiful building in Honiton. It has got facilities that could be used for exhibitions and recitals. Parking facilities are potentially there.”

Mr Marker, who has allowed a sign to be erected on his land next to the church saying ‘Save St Michael’s Church’, suggested the church council “looks outside the box” in a bid to reach out to the community.

He later told the meeting: “It is a very important building. Has English Heritage been approached for its feelings?

“The best way to keep an ancient building going is through intended use.”

Mr Marker suggested a feasibility study be drawn up to look at “every angle” of the church’s potential.

Reverend Sue Roberts said: “We did look at other uses.”

Turning it into a craft centre, exhibition space and recording studio were among the ideas explored, she revealed.

Mr Marker called for the reinstatement of the management committee and said: “Artists drooled over that church.

“Acoustically, it is supposed to be a wonderful place.”

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