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Funds given to the Bard's church

 SHAKESPEARE'S parish church is one of more than 150 Grade-I and Grade-II* listed English parish churches and other church buildings offered a total of £17.5 million in the latest awards from English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Holy Trinity in Stratford-upon-Avon has been offered a total of £34,000 towards the repairs that are needed for the cracked tower and to investigate the spire for damage.

"Shakespeare was baptised here as well as buried here. He would have known the tower. He was a lay rector, and would have had some responsibility for the church's upkeep," the Rector, the Revd Martin Gorick, said on Tuesday.

The grants are part of the £25 million a year that the funding bodies make available for listed church buildings through their Repair Grants for Places of Worship scheme. The scheme began in 2002 and was due to end this year, but has been extended until 2007 at the same annual rate, a spokeswoman for English Heritage said.

The largest grant this year for a top-listed church building went to St Barnabas's, Pimlico, London. It was offered a £25,000 first-stage grant after a storm damaged the spire a year ago, and up to £601,000 for the full repair programme.

The Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (SPAB) has received a grant of £15,800 to enable it to contact all faith groups with historic or listed buildings.

Catherine Cullis of SPAB said that nearly all respondents indicated that they would be interested in having a training course to help them keep their churches in good repair.

Norwich Cathedral had feared that it would have to turn off its floodlighting to save money after English Heritage, in its separate grant scheme for cathedrals, cut its annual awards by £1 million. But the city council said this week that it would pay for the electricity bill for the lights.

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