Drops and drafts will soon be banned at St Stephen’s Church – as a roof replacement project can now begin after many years of fundraising.
A grant of almost £ 286,700 for the work was awarded by the National Churches Trust, bringing the call to its goal of £ 430,000. Behind this achievement are the dedicated and supportive congregation and community, which have diligently raised over £ 60,000 over nearly a decade of wreath making, book sales, bazaars and coffee mornings. Smaller but significant grants from other trusts also contributed to the total.
The Grade I listed church may be removed from the List of Heritage in Danger thanks to the large-scale repair project.
With work underway after the rush, St Stephen’s has now held its last Sunday service until the scheduled reopening date of June 2022: services will continue, however, inside the adjoining church hall.
The priest at St Stephen the Martyr is Mother Alison Hardy. She believes the hard work and commitment of church supporters put St Stephen’s in a good light when making decisions about government funding offers for heritage boosting.
“It will be so good to welcome people to a hot, dry church. Tarpaulins, drops and buckets will be a thing of the past, ”she said.
“The congregation itself has raised a phenomenal amount in eight to ten years. Our grateful thanks to all the charities and funds that have supported us so far – and the local people who have tirelessly raised funds on our behalf.
This sentiment was echoed by church board member Peter Broad, who said each sale of Christmas wreaths on ‘many, many Christmases’ alone contributed around £ 1,000.
“It’s been a long time, chipping away at fundraising, and moving buckets from place to place as the roof gushed new leaks,” he said.
“We can’t wait to get started and look forward to fixing the roof and being able to reopen St Stephen’s and become the heart of the community. Thank you everyone for all the hard work and time that went into so much fundraising. Our churchwarden, Eve Gabriel, particularly showed great dedication in organizing the monthly book sales and clearance sales, which even continued online during the lockdown. ”
Roof repairs will be carried out by a company based in Chacewater, Specialist Stonemasons Ltd.
Duncan Wilson, Managing Director of Historic England, said: “Funding from the Government Cultural Recovery Fund is extremely welcome at a time when the people and organizations who care for our wide and diverse range of heritage have urgent need for support to make essential repairs.
“Heritage is a fragile ecosystem, with an incredible cast of characters who keep our historic places alive, with specialized skills that take time to learn and experience to develop.
“These grants will also protect their livelihoods, as they use their expertise to help our heritage survive. “
Longer term, St Stephen’s plans to install accessible washrooms and a kitchen area so the building can be more easily used as a venue for community groups and events: the party hall is usually full, says Mother Hardy , and the church is a natural focal point.
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