Local church gets government lifeline
Christ Church, St Leonards on Sea has received money from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund.
It’s one of 450 heritage organisations in England awarded emergency grants and loans, from a £1.57 billion fund set up to support the heritage sector through the pandemic, and secure the future of Britain’s museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites, and music venues.
Christ Church’s major grant will be used to repair its tower and spire. Falls of stone and metal onto the pavement of London Road recently, highlighted the need for repairs estimated at £120,000. A further £89,000 has been allocated from funds donated to the Church of England for urgent work. Immediate safety risks were addressed by steeplejacks, and the tower’s clock faces will be taken down for safety reasons during the restoration. A condition of the grant is that repairs must be undertaken by the end of March 2021.
Another purpose of the grant is to safeguard jobs, and offer training opportunities for development of heritage skills. Conservation specialists, Heritage Stone Access, who will work on Christ Church, have a young person spending a year of familiarisation with all aspects of heritage work before being offered an apprenticeship. The funding will provide greater security for the entire team during the current pandemic.
Christ Church is listed by English Heritage as a “particularly important building of more than special interest”. To obtain the grant the Church had to show its significance to the local community, such as accommodating homeless people in the winter, as well as being open by day for visitors to pray and appreciate its beauty.
Bishop Peter Wheatley, Priest-in-Charge, commented: “This is a wonderful start to our £600,000 programme to restore Christ Church in time for our 150th anniversary in 2025. The building is especially vulnerable to the salt winds off the sea but we are determined to restore it for the benefit of the community for another 150 years.”
The Archdeacon of Hastings, the Venerable Dr Edward Dowler, said: “For 150 years, Christ Church has stood as a beacon of faith and hope in a wonderful but very deprived part of St Leonards. I am delighted that such a generous grant has been awarded, and grateful to all those who’s hard work has made it possible.”
Christ Church is an imposing, Grade II* listed building in the centre of St Leonards. From the beginning it has been involved in the education and care of the less privileged members of society. It remains one of the most socially deprived parishes in the country. The parish centre, crypt and main church building are all used extensively by the local community, providing facilities for social support groups, and a variety of recreational and cultural activities.
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