South Stoneham St Mary is a building that represents within its walls 1,000 years of cultural heritage and history. In a city where much was destroyed by Second World War bombs, buildings like these remain even more significant. St Mary’s is one of the two remaining medieval churches in Southampton – it is even recorded in the Domesday Book of 1086. But the failing roof is putting the church at risk. Thankfully, help is on the way from our Friends.
As part of the National Church Awards, there is an exciting category – the Friends Award. Each year we invite churches who have already received a grant from us to let us know if they still need additional funding to complete their projects. We then ask our Friends to choose which church should receive an additional grant of £10,000.
St Mary’s is your 2023 Friends Award winner
“St Mary’s is a beautiful Grade I Listed church...” shares Joe, Reverend and Curate at St Mary’s. “There are traces of an earlier Saxon building here, but the chancel, which is the oldest part of the existing church, dates back to the 12th century. There’s even some medieval graffiti on one of the Norman arches!
“Here [at the church], as well as the two weekly Sunday services and regular visits from the local school for assemblies, we also use the church as the base for other church and mission activities. This important space is used regularly for other community groups, including Brownie's, Beavers, Cubs, and Scouts.
“We recently enjoyed a concert here from the local community gospel choir, and we have organ recitals here too, on our grade two star Willis organ. The bells are run by the university Bell ringers and the community gardening club tend to the outside areas. The space is also used by some for quiet days.
“However, all of this may be forced to stop if we are unable to source the funding for major and urgent roof repairs.”
The failing roof
“Unfortunately, over the course of many years, the roof has deteriorated, and rainwater is now getting inside. Roof timbers are becoming damp and in places begin to rot,” continues Joe.
“Internal walls are now becoming damp, causing staining and, elsewhere the moisture in the walls is pushing off the plaster and paperwork. The project we are planning to undertake is to have the roof stripped off, repairs made for supporting timbers and stonework and a new roof put back.
“As you can imagine, the cost for these works is huge. On this listed building, the current project cost is just under £200,000.
“This is also a deprived area, which adds to the difficulty of fundraising. But despite all this, we are pleased with how our fundraising is going with around 65 per cent of the total raised so far.
“This space is vital to the church work based here and the many community groups who use it. And so, it's imperative that we achieve the funding goal.
“Help from the National Church's Trust Friends [Award] Grant will make a massive difference and help us to achieve this and to ensure the use of this beautiful church continues for many years to come.”
Reaction on the night
Joe, along with Reverend Daniela Eisentraeger, represented St Mary’s at the National Church Awards, where they picked up their Friends Award.
“We are very grateful and excited to have won and just so pleased that it enables us to look after church and enable the work of God to carry on through the parish and into the local community,” Revd Joe Sweetnam shared with us on the night.
“It was quite a surprise to have got to the final. The award is great and everyone back at church will be very proud to have it on display.”