EXTENSIVE and expensive £1.2 million renovations to Highworth's oldest church have been highly praised by the town's mayor.

Coun Julia Bishop attended the first service to be held at St Michael and All Angels Church since construction work there was completed and hailed its new look a success.

She said: "Seeing it like this for the first time was very emotional, it's really astonishing what they've done, it's brilliant. This has been a 12-year journey and though it hasn't been easy, it was worth it, the workmanship is amazing.

"More than 200 people came to this wonderful service, including mayors and dignitaries from all over Wiltshire, with an inspirational sermon by Bishop Lee Rayfield."

Many months of work has been spent adding a new kitchen and meeting room, replacing the pews with chairs, adding underfloor heating and raising the floor of the listed Grade One building while carefully retaining and enhancing its oldest aspects to create a church that looks modern and historic all at once.

Most of the money came from a legacy fund the church had been saving up and 10 per cent of the funds came from collections.

Vicar Geoff Sowden noted that the changes planned by the church's parochial church council have brought the building closer to its original 13th-century look.

Rev Sowden said: "The Victorians made a lot of changes to the church in the 1860s which have now been reversed. Some people who were against the new renovations changed their view once they learned this. The church is now a flexible worship space that meets the needs of the 21st century and it's a great space for events."