A scheme project managed by Focus Consultants which will breathe new life into a Grade II* listed church has been awarded confirmed funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund for £1.45 million towards its restoration.

The project will create a centre for music, art and culture at St Mary’s Church – the oldest building in Walthamstow and the centrepiece of Walthamstow’s ancient village in north east London.

In 2017, the church was awarded initial support by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, and after two years of work in which the church obtained all its required permissions, it has been awarded the full grant.

The project, which is expected to cost a total of £3.37 million, will begin in early 2021 and is expected to take between nine months and a year to complete. When finished, it will regenerate St Mary’s Church by repairing and renovating the church to make it more suitable for music, art and cultural activities.

The funding – made possible by National Lottery players – will allow the building to continue to function as a vibrant, working church while expanding its use to include a café and gallery space, both of which will be open in the day, throughout the week. With the renovations and a new addition, the church will also have its offices in the church and will also add National Lottery-funded employees to help run its ambitious programme of concerts and events, including its St Mary’s Music Hall series of world, folk and jazz music.

Florence Andrews, senior consultant at Focus Consultants, said: “This is great news for St Mary’s Church in Walthamstow, and the team at Focus Consultants is very proud to have played a role in supporting the church and its parishioners with the bid.

“Securing National Lottery funding means that a new chapter in the life of the church and its community can soon begin.”

Nottingham-based Focus Consultants, which also has offices in London, Leicester, Newark and Boston, provided project management for the scheme and support in developing the application for the bid for The National Lottery funding. The company has worked on an extensive range of projects to breathe new life into historic and culturally important buildings across the UK.

This latest scheme will involve renovations to the church that include making essential building repairs (including to the roof and walls), removing the fixed pews and constructing a sensitively designed church extension into the existing car park to provide a new entrance, offices and gallery space. Three additional toilets will be added, the two current toilets will be renovated, new lighting will be installed, a new heritage space will be added, and both of the back vestries will be refurbished. A new staircase to the gallery will replace the current staircase, and a new kitchen (which can be hidden behind a sliding screen) will be added and will replace the current kitchen, with an outside serving window installed. St Mary’s is also working to attract additional funding to make public realm improvements near the church, especially to its car park, which it hopes to turn into public space.

Revd Vanessa Conant, Rector of St Mary’s Church and of the Parish of Walthamstow, said: “I’m so proud of the parishioners who put this bid together, the local people who supported us and the professionalism of the architects and consultants who helped us secure this National Lottery grant. We said in our bid that we wanted to be a ‘Creative Church for a Creative Community’ – to be a building open in the day that reflected the innovation and creative spirit of our community, to be a church that was once again at the centre of Walthamstow. We believe that churches exist for the good of the whole community – that we’re called to love our neighbours, to welcome the stranger and to work for the peace of the city. I believe this project will help us do all of those things. In other words, this project is not a distraction from our ministry – it is the embodiment of it.

“St Mary’s Walthamstow was delighted to work with Florence Andrews and Focus Consultants on this project. Their professionalism, expertise and support were invaluable and crucial to securing the grant.”

Stuart Hobley, Area Director London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, said: “Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, Walthamstow’s oldest building has a very bright future at the heart of its community. This is especially exciting news during Waltham Forest’s year as London’s first Borough of Culture which has demonstrated how special and relevant our heritage can be when everyone has the opportunity to share and celebrate it. It’s the National Lottery’s 25th birthday this year. During that quarter of a century, National Lottery players have raised £7.9billion for the UK’s heritage. We’re delighted that St Mary’s Walthamstow is part of that story.”

Focus Consultants offers a range of project management support and has worked on arts and heritage projects across the UK at museums, historic homes and ecclesiastical buildings.

For more information visit www.focus-consultants.com

Photo courtesy of Matthew Lloyd Architects.

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