Repair work complete!

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.”

Same-sex marriage at Central

A few weeks ago the main intention of the church council meeting at Central was to engage in further conversation about the Methodist Church Marriage and Relationships report and to make decisions regarding same-sex marriages taking place at the church.

We are delighted that the church council voted unanimously both in favour of giving consent for the solemnization of marriages of same-sex couples, and to apply to register the building accordingly, and in favour of giving consent for the blessing of marriages of same-sex couples previously solemnized. The full resolutions are available in the church council minutes.

Please feel free to get in touch with our ministers David Bidnell and/or Judith Stoddart if there are matters arising from this that you would like to talk through.

Government’s Culture Recovery Fund – Heritage Stimulus grant

We’re very pleased to share that we are due to receive a very generous grant from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

This money will cover 80% of the cost of major repairs to the roof and masonry of our Grade II* listed chapel. It’s a huge step towards our larger ambitions for our buildings on St Saviourgate.

Work is due to happen over this winter and spring, but worship and all room bookings will be unaffected. More details to follow soon.

Massive thanks to all who have worked with us to make this possible.

New collaboration with Central Hall Venues

Venue management organisation, Central Hall Venues (CHV) today announces the launch of its second UK site, St Saviourgate York. The news follows the successful launch of its first UK site, Nicolson Square Edinburgh, in March 2021.

CHV was established to support and manage UK venues based at Methodist public meeting places which share the same values of community, sustainability and well-being as its original venue, Central Hall Westminster. (CHW). As a nationally and internationally renowned conferencing and events centre for 20 years in the heart of London, Central Hall Westminster Ltd created CHV to replicate its own model by supporting and managing similar venues.

St Saviourgate York (SSY) is a conference and events venue situated in the historic city walls of York. Its Grade II* listed building, designed by architect James Simpson as a meeting and community space, dates back to 1840 when it was built to mark the centenary of Methodism. Conveniently positioned in central York next to The Shambles and with a stunning view of York Minster, the venue offers five flexible event spaces that can host events for up to 400 people. Its stunning Great Hall contains an ornate high ceiling and an impressive organ. A network of buildings connected to the Great Hall via a corridor lead to an oasis of a sunny and green courtyard in the heart of the venue.

Primary event spaces for up to 100 people each are the Fulford and Rawcliffe rooms. When the two rooms are combined – using a remarkable piece of Victorian engineering, a movable wall – the space can accommodate up to 220 people.

The venue’s versatile spaces can host all kinds of public and private occasions including musical concerts, performances and rehearsals, conferences and meetings, as well as seminars and training events. The building’s stunning 19th century architecture is also ideal for filming and TV locations.

Each room at SSY is filled with natural daylight and high ceilings with staff on hand to provide full guidance to event organisers. SSY works with a selection of caterers who can provide bespoke options, whatever the event.

Paul Southern, Managing Director of Central Hall Venues, comments: “Following the successful launch of our Scottish venue, Nicolson Square Edinburgh, we are absolutely delighted to be adding a second venue within the same year in York. SSY, which has the same community and sustainability values as our own, is the perfect addition to our expanding family of venues in the UK.”

“Our close ties with Methodism will ensure the venue will maintain its ethical principles and while all kinds of events will be held there, it still retains its original purpose as a place of worship and community in York,” he adds.

More information can be found on the new SSY website

Central welcomes new minister – Rev David Bidnell

During this morning’s Covenant Service we not only celebrated communion together for the first time since March 2020, but also bid our farewell to Rev Rory Dalgliesh. Not only that, but it was our first service with Rev David Bidnell, our new minister.

David Bidnell
David writes a little about himself:

“In coming to live and work in York and its surrounding area we have not moved too far – from Huddersfield and West Yorkshire. Previous to that we were in Ruislip, West London, where we went to live on our return from working overseas in Haiti. One of the delights of living in Haiti was learning the indigenous language, Haitian Creole, made a little easier by the fact that I had already spent time studying French (along with German) at Durham University. Being fascinated by languages and enjoying literature and drama of various kinds, I often find myself intrigued by the role of narrative, plot and character in the stories we read and in the stories which our ours to tell. Several years ago this led me into a PhD on the parables in Luke’s Gospel, looked at particularly from literary and cultural perspectives. I find running a helpful way to relax and have managed to complete a few marathons and half marathons from time to time, and music has always been significant for me, though now it ends to be more listening than playing or singing.”