A VILLAGE church that sits on a site with religious history dating back to the 13th century is set to close due to mounting maintenance problems.

St James' Church in Holt, near Wimborne, will no longer serve as a place of worship for the parish following a decision by senior figures.

Archdeacon of Dorset Antony MacRow-Wood said it was with "great regret" that the church will be closing.

"Unfortunately it has a number of maintenance issues not least the collapse of drainage on the site which causes the crypt to fill with water and damp problems in the church," said Mr MacRow-Wood.

"The small but dedicated congregation have done their best over many years to keep the church going but they are really struggling now.

"Church buildings rely on the support of the wider parish for their care and maintenance and although a public meeting about the future of the church was well attended it resulted in little by way of concrete response."

An event to pay tribute to the church and its history in the village is set to take place on Sunday, March 22, with a performance by an 80-strong choir of members from Wimborne Choral Society.

The present St James' Church was built during the 19th century and is part of the Diocese of Salisbury but it was in 1284 that Henry de Lacey first obtained a licence from King Edward I to grant land at Holt for a chapel for two chaplains to celebrate divine service.

Records state that the original chapel of St James was first established in 1368 with two chaplains provided by Christchurch Priory.

"We hope that worship will be able to continue on Sunday mornings in the village hall opposite the church," said Mr MacRow-Wood.

"A special Christmas carol service just before Christmas was well attended by villagers and members of the wider Benefice, including a choir.

"It was an opportunity to celebrate and give thanks for the ministry of that church over many generations.

"Once the church formally closes it will revert to the Diocese of Salisbury who will seek alternative uses for the building. If anyone is interested please contact me."