Grant Joy for Breathing Space Project
A fundraising campaign to restore one of our historic County Durham churches and make it more of a community asset has moved closer to fruition after a £56,000 grant was awarded for repairs to the roof.
The money was granted to St Michael and All Angels in Witton Gilbert, North Durham, by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) and is part of a £262,000 project to widen use of the 800-year-old church.
The repair to the roof is part of a phased project and villagers have already raised £132,000 in eighteen months, through a series of events and donations.
In addition to the roof, work will include a new toilet, a kitchen/meeting room, flooring, heating and seating as part of the church’s Breathing Space Project, which will involve organisations working with a range of people, including those dealing with people affected by mental health issues.
The project will take advantage of the church’s setting next to a nature reserve and run courses such as art and relaxation, along with healing sessions and teaching people about wildlife.
Caroline Dick, Vicar of St Michael and All Angels, said: “The £56,000 will allow us to repair the church roof and we will make other improvements over the months to come.
This is an in inspiring and sacred place with real depth. We believe that its atmosphere will help people. The Breathing Space project is about health and well-being, which is at the heart of Christianity. It is about putting together the atmosphere of a sacred place, the environment in which it stands and a sense of healing. It offers things you would not get in a community centre.
We plan to appoint a project worker by the end of the year to develop our Breathing Space project. We hope to have everything fully up and running next year.”
Stephen Ellis, a member of the church’s Breathing Space Steering Committee, said: “The church is for all people. For us, there is a Christian focus to our work but we believe the church has a role to play in everyone’s health and well-being.“
Brenda Gilmore, a congregation member and parish councillor, said: “We are seeing the wider community being more involved in what we are doing and volunteering their services when we need help.”
The £56,000 grant was part of more than £7.5million of Lottery funding awarded to enable urgent repairs to 77 of England’s historic Grade II listed churches, chapels and synagogues. The money comes from the Repair Grants for Places of Worship scheme, which is funded by HLF with the guidance of English Heritage (EH).
Carole Souter, Chief Executive of the HLF, said; “Places of worship include some of England’s most historic buildings. They sit at the heart of our cities, towns and villages and continue to play a vital role within our communities today. With these grants, I am delighted we are able to continue supporting congregations across the country to safeguard these heritage treasures for future generations.”
Dr Simon Thurley, Chief Executive of English Heritage, said: “The HLF’s commitment to places of worship is crucial if congregations are to keep their buildings in use. All 77 beneficiaries need urgent support to ensure that high level stonework, roofing and rainwater goods are in full working order, keeping the buildings wind and watertight. Without these essential repairs and regular on-going maintenance we run the risk of losing historic fabric, existing facilities and future opportunities.”
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