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Church roofs win £22.9m repair grant

22 July 2016

© The National Gallery, London

The Avenue, Sydenham, by Camille Pissarro: St Bartholomew’s, Lawrie Park, was awarded £95,600

The Avenue, Sydenham, by Camille Pissarro: St Bartholomew’s, Lawrie Park, was awarded £95,600

GRANTS totalling £22.9 million have been awarded to hundreds of churches in the second round of the Government’s roof repair fund for places of worship.

One of the largest beneficiaries is St Leonard’s, Shoreditch, which featured in the BBC comedy Rev, starring Tom Hollander as the Revd Adam Smallbone.

It has been awarded £95,400 towards repairs to the south nave roof. Its vicar, the Revd Paul Turp, who was one of the inspirations for the TV series, has been fighting for 33 years to keep the Grade I listed church open. It is currently on the Heritage at Risk register.

Mr Turp said that the congregation needed to raise about £35,000 to pay for the rest of the repair bill. “The income from Rev balanced our books for a year, but we are a financially very poor parish.

“This is a very generous grant and a large piece of what we need to repair the south nave to stop the water coming in. But we need another £300,000 to rebuild another part of the roof. I’ve no idea how we are going to do that, but we have to keep trying,” he said.

The church that featured in the impressionist Camille Pissarro’s painting The Avenue, Sydenham, St Bartholomew’s, Lawrie Park, received £95,600 to repair its roof, drainage system, and choir vestry.

The maximum individual grant that could be awarded under the scheme was £100,000, and several churches received the full amount, including St Mary and All Saints’, Fotheringhay, which has 3000 visitors a year because of its history, situated as it is close to the castle where Richard III was born and Mary Queen of Scots was executed. It is also the resting place of the second and third Dukes of York, who were buried in the church in the 15th century. Part of the church was pulled down during the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Other notable recipients include St Gabriel’s, Stanbury, in Haworth, West Yorkshire, the construction of which was begun by Charlotte Brontë’s father, the Revd Patrick Brontë, and continued and managed by his curate, the Revd Arthur Bell Nicholls, who married Charlotte. The roof was discovered to be in need of urgent remedial work, and a grant of £33,800 has been awarded from the fund.

The roof repair fund was announced by the then Chancellor, George Osborne, in 2014, and the first grants were awarded last year. It was subsequently extended for another year, owing to the large number of applicants. The second round of grants has taken the total money awarded under the scheme to £55 million.

Under this second round, 401 places of worship have been awarded grants, nearly 300 of them Church of England churches. Every region of the UK has received grants, each ranging from £10,000 to £100,000.

The lead bishop for cathedrals and church buildings, the Bishop of Worcester, the Rt Revd Dr John Inge, said: “These grants will be an enormous help to church communities who take care of some of this country’s most precious built heritage. It is very good that the Government has recognised that help is needed.”

The chairman of the Church Buildings Council, Sir Tony Baldry, said; “It is fantastic that almost 300 more church buildings will receive significant help with roof repairs from government, and we are hugely grateful to the Chancellor. We now need to ensure a sustainable way of funding buildings in the future, and this is a question to which I hope the Government’s English Churches and Cathedrals sustainability review will find viable and deliverable answers.”

The review, the panel of which met for the first time this week, has a remit to look at new models of financing repairs and maintenance of churches and cathedrals, as well as increasing community use.

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