When Michael Hoddell was told the bill for vital repairs to St John's church spire would total £202,000 he feared it was doomed.

But thanks to the fund-raising efforts of the congregation, there is just £10,000 left to find and restoration work could start next month.

When the appeal was launched last year, it seemed a formidable task.

To save the 97ft spire, Mr Hoddell, who was church warden for 20 years and is now the parish administrator, was told enormous scaffolding would have to be erected.

The stonework in the 140-year-old Victorian church in Burgess Hill had rotted with damp and water was seeping through the walls.

Left much longer, Mr Hoddell feared St John's, the only Grade II-listed building in Burgess Hill, would not survive for the next generation.

The church was promised a £42,000 grant from English Heritage - but the congregation and church had just a year to raise the other £160,000.

Since launching an appeal last July people in the town have raised all but £10,000 of the amount needed.

With fund-raising events planned during the Burgess Hill festival, which starts today, Mr Hoddell is confident they can raise the rest.

He said: "We were determined to save the church, and it's amazing what people have achieved.

"The children in the congregation have been incredible. One group raised £400 in a sponsored swim. Another little girl made beaded tassels for key rings and alone raised more than £100.

"We've also had money from one or two trusts, which has helped."

The final sum of £192,000 includes £80,000 raised by the congregation, £42,000 from church funds, £42,000 promised by English Heritage, £8,000 between Burgess Hill Town Council and Mid Sussex District Council, and £19,000 which the church will be able to claim back on VAT.

Events in the Burgess Hill festival include a concert on Wednesday, June 11, and a market with stalls and tombola on Saturday, June 14.

For more information about the appeal, telephone Michael Hoddell on 01444 232746.