St Nicholas' Church in Stretton is being turned into a community hub
Work to transform a village church into a community hub which includes worship is well underway.
More than £200,000 has been raised towards the project at St Nicholas' Church, Stretton, including £100,000 received from the FCC Communities Foundation.
Penny Isaacs, of the church’s community project committee, said: “As ever with churches, the roof had to be sorted out first, and work started in October.
“The Collyweston slate roof had to be replaced in several areas and was held up by bad weather, then Christmas, then more bad weather - but the last of the 11 roof slopes has now been started and should be complete by mid-March.
“The contractors, Messenger Construction, are Collyweston specialists and we have to mention Darren Ellis, who has spent many days in foul weather dressing the slates to be repositioned back on the roof. The results are superb.”
The committee is also grateful for the £100,000 grant, money which came from the waste management company FCC Environmentand for the support of the National Churches Trust.
As a result, the Victorian pews have been removed - all were sold to local people with money going back into the project - and the pew platforms, which had unfortunately rotted in many places, have also gone.
The Jacobean pews are being retained for parishioners once Sunday services are allowed to resume. Some chairs from Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford, have also been acquired and will be brought into use, and the church will have wheelchair access, modern heating and a much-needed loo with baby changing facilities.
A new floor began to be laid this week by V Couzens of Stamford, and any finds, which included an old wood burning stove which lay down some steep steps under the central aisle of the church, will be left untouched.
“It’s something to be rediscovered in another 150 years’ time!” said Penny.
Project manager Greg Harker added: “The church looks completely different without the pews – much larger – and it is good to think what we will be able to do with that space.
“The steady decline in attendance and the gradual deterioration of the fabric would have put the building at an increasing risk of closure. This way we aim to give the building a new lease of life.
“At the same time, we must respect the traditions and beauty of the church and so the work is being undertaken to preserve the sanctity of the building.
“This facility is going to make a real difference to all villagers’ wellbeing as well as the wider community.”
It is hoped completion of the project will coincide with Covid-19 restrictions being lifted on June 21. More details are on the project website.