THE great and the good (or even the not so good) of Christchurch could have their faces immortalised in stone at the top of the Priory.

Several gargoyles and two grotesques at the east end of the historic church are badly eroded and in urgent need of repair or replacement.

It is part of a much wider new phase of conservation work estimated at £660,000.

A report to the parochial church council this week recommends that five of the gargoyles be remade because the originals designs have been worn away.

It adds that the grotesques might be saved through repair.

Now the vicar of Christchurch, the Reverend Charles Stewart says that the Priory is holding a competition to see whose faces should appear on the new gargoyles; the deadline for suggestions is the end of the month.

He said: "It has been a momentous year or so for Christchurch because of local government re-organisation and it occurred to me it might even be appropriate for one or other of the leading figures in the borough to be set in stone.

"Of course, the gargoyles and the grotesques will be high up and you may not be able to make out the faces from the ground, but people will know it's them."

The cost of each of the new gargoyles and grotesques is £6,000 and sponsorship is welcomed by the church. Canon Stewart added: “Not a huge price to pay to be immortalised in stone, it seems to me."

People wanting to put forward their suggestions for the faces that should appears are asked to contact the parish office on 01202 485804.

The work could be completed over the summer and may be carried out by top sculptor Rory Young.

He would make drawings of the subjects and come up with plaster models for initial approval.

Gargoyles were commonly used in medieval times.

Their two main purposes were to scare off evil, and to divert rainwater.

In architecture, a grotesque or chimera is a fantastic or mythical figure used for decorative purposes.

Both feature mainly on churches and cathedrals.