Helping churches plan for the future

Published: Thursday, January 19, 2017


The National Churches Trust has awarded its first Project Development Grants, funding which allows churches to plan repair and community projects.

The Minster Church of St Thomas, the Isle of Wight church supported by Queen Victoria; St Leonard's Shoreditch, the first church in the UK to be illuminated by gaslight; and St Bartholomew in Tong, Shropshire, where Little Nell from Charles Dickens ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’ is said to be buried, are among the 12 churches across the UK that have been awarded the first ever Project Development Grants from the National Churches Trust.

Project Development Grants, a new funding stream from the National Churches Trust, allow churches to plan high quality repair and community projects. This includes preparing applications to major grant funders such as the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Claire Walker, Chief Executive of the National Churches Trust said:

“I'm delighted that 12 churches across the UK are able to plan for the future thanks to the National Churches Trust’s Project Development Grants.


“Project Development Grants help churches become more sustainable by allowing them to examine the challenges facing their buildings. This includes working out how best to fix major structural problems and making it possible for churches to better serve local people by adapting their layout and installing modern facilities such as kitchens and toilets.


“Finding out what work is necessary, and how much it will cost, is one of the hardest parts of planning a major church repair or modernisation project. With the help of the National Churches Trust, more congregations can help ensure the future of their church building for many years to come.”






Anglican – Grade II*

£3,000 Project Development Grant

Situated in the North Wessex Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, one of the most notable features of St Mary’s church is its distinctive round tower, one of only two in Berkshire and the most westerly in the country.

The National Churches Trust’s £3,000 Project Development Grant will enable planning for a project to help the church better meet the needs of local people. The project will ensure the church is structurally sound, after which facilities including toilets and a kitchen can be added. St Mary’s will consider other options, such as extensions and changes to the layout, by consulting with the local community and other stakeholders.

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Anglican – Grade II

£1,500 Project Development Grant

All Saints church in Herodsfoot was built in the 1860s to serve the rapidly growing mining village. Today, the church is the only public building in the village. It is currently used for festivals, Pilates, pop up nights, and games, but use of the building is limited by poor heating and the lack of toilet facilities.

The National Churches Trust’s £1,500 Project Development Grant will enable All Saints church to carry out architect and surveyor assessments to begin the process of adapting the church for wider community use. Members of the community who do not currently attend the church have registered their support for the project, and will be involved in creating a plan for its future.  

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Anglican – Grade I

£10,000 Project Development Grant

The church of St Mary has been the site of Christian worship in Totnes since the tenth century. It is the oldest building in Totnes still in use for its original purpose. It was restored and enlarged in the nineteenth century by Sir George Gilbert Scott. Its significance is recognised by a Grade I listing and the designation of part of the churchyard as a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

The National Churches Trust’s £10,000 Project Development Grant will help the church to plan substantial restoration, refurbishment, and reordering works. It will also enable the church to apply for a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

The church is currently on Historic England’s Heritage At Risk register, with its floor in a dangerous condition. When this is fixed, St Mary’s will be able to install new facilities to create a fully flexible place of worship and community space in the centre of Totnes, which will include toilets, catering facilities, improved accessibility, new heating, flexible seating, and a new lighting system.  

St Mary’s has over 50,000 visitors each year, and is already well used for major festivals and by local schools, learning groups, and theatre and music. The new facilities will enable it to become a landmark venue, with huge future opportunities.

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STOCKTON ON TEES, Stockton Parish Church of St Thomas

Anglican – Grade I

£2,320 Project Development Grant

Stockton Parish Church, built in 1712, is a Grade I listed church in a dominant position at the centre of Stockton on Tees High Street, at the heart of the Stockton Conservation Area. The tower houses a peal of twelve bells which are said to surpass even Durham Cathedral.

Stockton Parish Church has very popular Sunday services, including a Farsi language service attended by 100 people. It is regularly open for quiet prayer. Its large seating capacity and central location means it also has an important civic role. Community uses include language classes, asylum support, singing lessons, and dementia support.

The National Churches Trust’s £2,320 Project Development Grant will enable the church to plan how best to adapt the building to meet the growing needs of the community. Recently there has been an increase in attendance and community uses, and making the interior more flexible will ensure the future growth of the church.

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Anglican – Grade II*

£5,700 Project Development Grant

The earliest parts of St Germain’s date from the thirteenth century. The tower and chancel, built in the 1840s, are by Decimus Burton, The windows were added in 1902 by the architect Frederic Chancellor. The church has a strong connection with the Capel Cure family who have lived in nearby Blake hall for over 200 years.

In a village with no community building, hall, shop, or pub, St Germain’s is a vital social hub. It is a popular wedding venue, and its bells are rung for weddings, services, and by visiting bands of ringers.

The National Churches Trust’s £5,700 Project Development Grant will fund an investigation into how best to solve two major problems: a leaking lead tower roof, and subsiding nave walls. The subsidence has created a ‘disconcerting slope’ to the pews and the walls are cracking.

When the scope and cost of the work is known, the church will be able to make an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund to fix its structural problems. If not corrected, the subsidence and damp could put St Germain’s on Historic England’s Heritage At Risk Register. 

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NEWPORT, Minster Church of St Thomas

Anglican – Grade I

£5,000 Project Development Grant

The Minster Church of Sts Thomas, or Newport Minster, is recognised as the main Anglican church on the Isle of Wight. Honouring its importance, the church was designated a Minster in 2008. Originally dedicated to Thomas Beckett, this was dropped when he was declared a traitor, and the dedication assumed to be to Thomas the Apostle. The current church is dedicated to both Saints Thomas.

Newport Minster was rebuilt in 1854 in the Victorian High Gothic style on the footprint of the original mediaeval church. Queen Victoria’s beloved home on the Isle of Wight, Osborne House, gave her a strong connection to the church. She was a major benefactor of the project, and Prince Albert laid the foundation stone.

In the centre of Newport, Newport Minster is already used regularly by a number of groups, including bell ringers, schools, the Isle of Wight Jazz Festival, Writers Circle, and Musical Competition. It has the largest seating capacity on the island. However, a lack of space and toilets limit its use.

The National Churches Trust’s £5,000 Project Development Grant will support the latest phase of a decade long project of restoration and reordering of this historic church. It will help the church to develop plans and costings ahead of an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for the final phase of repairs, as well as helping shape plans for toilets, comfortable seating, a meeting room, new vestries and storage space, a shop, and new lighting, sound, and heating systems.

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Anglican – Grade I

£2,600 Project Development Grant

St Leonard Shoreditch is a large church built in the classical style in the eighteenth century by George Dance the elder, a pupil of Wren. The west face is of Portland stone, with a 153 foot tower and spire. Many of Shakespeare’s acting company are buried in the churchyard, as the medieval church previously on the site was the parish church for the first English theatres.

The church was the first in the UK to have gaslight, and the second to have electricity.

St Leonard’s is regularly open to the public outside of its well-attended services. It is a venue for concerts, plays, and performances by local school children. It also has a drop in centre offering advice and social support on a range of problems, which is open much of the year.

The National Churches Trust’s £2,600 Project Development Grant will allow St Leonard’s to research how best to carry out repairs and refurbishment to its interior and community rooms, and to open up the crypt for community uses. The church is looking to help those most in need, as well as improving the experience of its 10,000 annual visitors.

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TONG, St Bartholomew

Anglican – Grade I

£6,000 Project Development Grant

The splendid Perpendicular Gothic interior of St Bartholomew’s, Tong, attracts thousands of heritage visitors each year. Tong’s connection to Dickens brings in many more visitors - the churchyard is supposed to be the burial place of Little Nell from ‘The Old Curiosity Shop’, and a fictitious gravestone was erected by an enterprising verger in about 1910. The epitaphs on one of the tombs in the church are accepted to have been written by Shakespeare.

St Bartholomew’s is undertaking a major project for long term sustainability, Tong’s ‘Twenty Twenty Vision’. The aim is to restore the fabric of the church, and promote its heritage potential. Most of the funds raised already have gone towards urgent roof and lead repairs.

The National Churches Trust’s £6,000 Project Development Grant is an important next step. It will be used to develop final plans to install toilets and a servery. Currently, all food and drink is brought in from the village hall, and visitors must make a five minute walk to use the toilet. Other improvements will reduce damp and draughts.

Better facilities will allow St Bartholomew to welcome many more visitors, plan Heritage Open Days, and make better connections with local schools.

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SHEFFIELD, Cemetery Road Baptist Church

Baptist – Grade II

£10,000 Project Development Grant

The twin octagonal towers of Cemetery Road Baptist Church in Sheffield are thought to be unique. The church is believed to be modelled on Bloomsbury Baptist Church in London. It is a Victorian Romanesque design, with a large rose window facing out into the road.

As well as worship, Cemetery Road Baptist Church is used for English classes, asylum support, lunch club and FoodCycle community meals, Mencap community café, choirs, university groups, Al-Anon and mental wellbeing support, pantomimes and exhibitions.

The National Churches Trust's £10,000 Project Development Grant will be used to decide how best to make even more use of the church. The church will produce a 'master plan' to decide the best alterations to the building, and work out a funding plan. Aims are to fix damp, install an energy efficient heating system, accessible toilets and storage, and to restore the interior.

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SOUTH ELMSALL, Trinity Methodist Church

Methodist – Unlisted

£2,500 Project Development Grant

Trinity Methodist Church in South Elmsall is an attractive neo-gothic building, built in 1885 from Horseforth sandstone and Elland flagstones. The church is now the only public building and place of worship in the neighbourhood. The surrounding area is one of the 6% most deprived in England and Wales.

The National Churches Trust's £2,500 Project Development Grant means that the church can commission a Feasibility Study looking into the reordering of the church, so that it can do more to help the local community. Trinity Methodist Church want to create a community café to help out parents and carers on the school run, focusing on healthy eating. It also plans to provide drop-in sessions for parents at local schools, and facilities for secondary school children to use for further study in the afternoons.

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GLASGOW, Shettleston, Trinity Methodist Church

Methodist – Unlisted

£10,000 Project Development Grant

Trinity Methodist Church, in Shettleston, Glasgow, is a stone-built church with slate pitched roofs, set in the heart of this community in the east end of Glasgow. It is already well used by the community, including a lunch club; mother baby group; baking, craft and computer groups; slimming groups; and Alcoholics Anonymous.

A recent inspection highlighted the urgent need for investment to repair and modernise the building. The National Churches Trust’s £10,000 Project Development Grant will be used to plan a major project to create a Community Hub, a vital social space in one of the 2% most disadvantaged communities in Scotland. The grant will enable the church to research development proposals and to design options to create an easily maintained and environmentally friendly building.

Trinity Methodist Church wants to create a welcoming environment with a drop in café, workshops on health and fitness, and opportunities for reflection and prayer. In an area with no community café, the Community Hub would focus on physical, emotional, and spiritual health, and challenge isolation by providing opportunities to share skills for future employment, while developing relationships within the community.  

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ST ASAPH, Parish Church of Ss Asaph and Cyndeyrn

Anglican – Grade II*

£7,350 Project Development Grant

The church of Ss Asaph and Cyndeyrn is in the centre of St Asaph, and has served the people of the parish since the fourteenth century. Since then a nave has been added, and a nineteenth century rebuild in 1872 by Sir George Gilbert Scott created the south porch, vestry, and bell tower.

As there is no community centre in St Asaph, the church will use the National Churches Trust's £7,350 Project Development Grant to plan a project to allow it to become a community space for children's groups, coffee mornings, pop-up restaurants, and concerts.

Ss Asaph and Cynderyn project includes the installation of underfloor heating and insulation and the provision of a disabled access toilet, a kitchen and a quiet meeting room. It also has plans to even the floor, and create a flexible space with lighting and audio-visual facilities.

Once the proposed improvements have been made, the church wants the people of St Asaph to make more use of their local church. As the church is on the North Wales Pilgrims Way, the new facilities will also benefit visitors to the area.

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