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Norwich church buys pub for community hub 

The MitreCF

St Thomas’ Church has bought a city pub and plan to transform the dilapidated building into a vibrant community space for the benefit of the community. Helen Baldry reports

Dust clouds filled the air, the pounding of hammers resounded along Earlham Road and a line of skips were filled to the brim as a 40-strong team from St Thomas’ Church started tearing down the tired decor of The Mitre ready for repurposing it as a building to support the community.

The building was bought outright by the church earlier this year for half a million pounds, paid for by members of the congregation. The pub is a stone’s throw from St Thomas’ Church and there are plans underway to turn it into a community hub, which will serve food and drink, host events and partner with local groups to serve the people in the area.

Ian Dyble, vicar of St Thomas’ described the building as a ‘blank canvas’ and he is open to ideas and suggestions about how best the building can be used. Ian was inducted into the post of Priest in Charge of the parish in March 2013. At the time, he saw potential in The Mitre as a venue the church could use. Three years later it was up for sale and he is delighted that the church has been able to buy it.

The name of the venue will remain The Mitre, an apt name as the bishop’s headdress is said to symbolise the flame of the Holy Spirit descending on the heads of the disciples at Pentecost. Ian said, “It’s wonderful to have a pub with this name. It’s going to be a place of redemption.”

The first priority was to bring light into the place – both literally and spiritually. A team of volunteers from the church gathered early on Saturday March 12 to have breakfast together and a time of worship and prayer before they went inside and started to clear the building.

Considering many of the windows were boarded up and the upstairs had been modified into small rooms with cameras and peepholes in the doors, there is speculation around the use of the premises in the past. Ian said, “As a church we’re really interested in anti trafficking.” The church has established work in Kolkata helping people at risk of being trafficked, and also those who have been rescued from exploitation.

With the darkness stripped away and the plans for positive uses of the Mitre, Ian said, “This is really significant for us.”

Bishop Graham James is enthusiastic about the new venture. He said, “’I’ll drink to that’ ... That’s what I said instinctively when I heard  St Thomas Church has purchased “The Mitre” public house, and not only because its name implies a church connection.   These new facilities will enable the further development of a great range of Christian ministries and a fresh means of outreach.   The most public of all houses in any parish should be the church, for it is God’s house where all are welcome."

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