The future of one of York’s most iconic buildings the Central Methodist Church on St Saviourgate has been secured by a government culture grant of over £430,000 towards the repair the Grade ll* listed building.
The funding will not only cover 80 per cent of the cost of major repairs to the roof and masonry of the chapel but also provide a huge step forward in the church’s ambitions to make the city centre buildings at St Saviourgate into a place of welcome for the city and community.
The chapel, originally built in 1840 to mark 100 years of Methodism, and designed by James Simpson of Leeds to seat 1,500 people, includes a balcony with original box pews and a large historic pipe organ. Ancillary spaces are used extensively during the week by community groups.
The church’s vision aims to transform Central into a city centre space for the whole community seven days a week. The proposals, costed at around £6m, will enhance and adapt the building, updating facilities and bringing the chapel basement into use in order to secure the future use of the building as an events venue and home to community groups.
As well as being home to a worshipping congregation Central already provides premises for two local charitable organisations – Carecent, a breakfast centre for homeless, unemployed and otherwise socially excluded members of our community operates from the building six days a week, and Kyra Women’s Project, which offers help to local women to make positive change in their lives, offering a range of courses, therapies, life skills and events for women.
The church is part of the Place of Welcome network, a growing network of local community groups providing their neighbourhoods with places where people feel safe to belong, connect and contribute. The church runs a ‘Place of Welcome’ initiative three afternoons a week where anyone can come for a warm drink and a chat and, in addition to weekly services in the chapel, once a month hosts Bread Church where participants bake and eat bread while exploring the Christian faith together.
The roofing work has been carried out by a York company Pinnacle Conservation which specialises in heritage restoration and conservation. Work is now complete.
Overseeing the project with conservation architect Susan Amaku is York-based Angie Creswick. She comes from a project management background and as York Circuit Resources Manager assists Methodist churches in the York area with their buildings.
“Central Methodist Church is a substantial historic building with a small but determined congregation who seek to use their building as a place of welcome for all,” she says.
“In addition to church services the church runs a ‘Place of Welcome initiative three afternoons a week where anyone can come for a warm drink and a chat. Carecent, a breakfast centre for homeless, unemployed and otherwise socially excluded members of our community operates from the building six days a week. Kyra Women’s Project operates from the premises and a wide range of community groups use the building for events and activities.”
The church congregation, which is responsible for the maintenance and repair of the building have not been able to fund major repairs to the Grade ll* listed building.
Angie Creswick explained: “The chapel’s roof was causing serious concern with the original 1840 slate delaminating, slipped tiles, damp roof timbers, water leaks adjacent to the historic pipe organ and a risk of further damage to the ornate plaster ceiling.
“Significant cracks in the wall masonry urgently needed repair and a programme of masonry repointing and exterior redecoration was overdue.”
Local contractor Pinnacle Conservation Ltd is carrying out the work which includes strengthening of roof timbers and installation of a breathable membrane, roof re-slating and lead work, masonry repairs and repointing, joinery repairs and redecoration to the windows, repair and upgrading of gutters and downpipes to handle extreme weather events, installation of a safe access system to assist with future maintenance and an inspection and stabilisation of the most vulnerable sections of the chapel ceiling. The project has also provided the opportunity for apprentices working with Pinnacle to receive training and experience in joinery, masonry and roofing. The apprenticeship schemes are designed to encourage the development of skills within the heritage sector.
In addition, the Methodist Church, as part of their commitment to climate justice, has taken the opportunity to fund installation of roof insulation and thus reduce their carbon footprint.
Angie Creswick said: “The project has safeguarded this important chapel as a place of worship and community welcome in the heart of York.”
“The church is working on plans to bring the large chapel basement back into use and improve the entrance and circulation within the chapel and ancillary buildings as part of their commitment to offer generous hospitality.”
The major grant from The Programmes of Major Works scheme consists of a total of £430,219 from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), administered by Historic England.
Other funders include Yorkshire Historic Churches Trust, The Trustees for Methodist Church Purposes, the York Methodist Circuit, Yorkshire North and East Methodist District. The local Methodist church congregation has also contributed.
The Programmes of Major Works scheme is part of the Culture Recovery Fund, the Government’s support package to protect the country’s cultural, arts and heritage organisations.
Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries said: “From local churches to ancient buildings and landscapes, the UK’s unique heritage makes our towns, cities and villages stronger, more vibrant and helps bring communities together. This latest funding – £35m from our unprecedented Culture Recovery Fund – will help protect sites including Jane Austen’s House and Hampton Court Palace for future generations.”