Huge £678,000 lottery funding boost for local church renovation project

A major West Huntspill Church renovation project received a huge financial boost this week with news that it will receive over £670,000 in funding from the National Lottery.

Grade I listed St Peter and All Hallows in West Huntspill has received £678,200 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for essential repairs and to become a community hub.

Plans for the church were already being drawn up before the onset of the pandemic, but have been revamped to put the church at the heart of addressing impacts on the community and surrounding areas.

In 2019 we reported here that the church received development funding of £97,100 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, enabling it to move forward with its plans. Detailed proposals were then submitted for this second round of funding.

The project financed by the National Lottery aims in particular to reach the elderly, disadvantaged or isolated people as well as children and young people. The consultation revealed that there has been an increase in local isolation, mental health issues, digital poverty and a decreased sense of community connectedness.

West Huntspill plans include:

• Creation of a talking café with IT support at the church to help reduce isolation and address digital skills gaps that make people less connected
• Installation of an honesty café with local products and toilets and a kitchen to allow groups to use the church
• Organize community exhibitions and a range of activities
• Introducing Scouting Achievement Badges and School Resources

The project will also carry out essential repairs to the at-risk Grade I listed church, in particular to the masonry and tower roof.

David Lemon, Project Co-ordinator at St Peter and All Hallows, says: “Without this funding from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, it would not be possible to maintain this beautiful historic building or adapt it to the current needs of the community.

“In the eight hundred years that a Church has stood on this site, it has continually grown and changed to meet the changing needs of this community, and this is another step in that journey.”

“In two recent village surveys, it was very evident that the community needed a center or hub to reduce isolation and develop a cohesive community, which this carefully designed reorganization of the West End will do. from the church.”

Stuart McLeod, London & South Director at the National Lottery Heritage Fund, adds: “Heritage has a vital role to play in making communities a better place to live and in supporting personal well-being, so we are delighted to support this project. which aims to put historic St Peter and All Hallows at the heart of positive change for those affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

Ann Gunnell-Parker, West Huntspill resident and parish councilor, said: ‘I was delighted to attend a meeting at St Peter and All Hallows Church on Saturday 11th December to understand the development plans for a community center in the church. During the meeting, I was amazed by the enormous amount of work that has already gone into this project and the magnitude of the work planned. »

“These works include the removal of the pews to the west of the entrance, which will make room for community events and allow the current ‘kitchen’ area to be moved into the main body of the church to form a community cafe. The current kitchen will become a storage area and a much-needed toilet will be installed.

“The toilets will facilitate many activities, including Boy Scout groups sleepovers and attract Coast Path walkers to the community cafe. Indeed, there were so many ideas for events ready to be activated once the works were completed and most of them depended on the availability of the toilets. I look forward to seeing how the funding and work progresses.

Steve Davis, Principal of West Huntspill School, said: “Everyone at West Huntspill Primary School (part of the Priory Learning Trust) has been delighted to hear that the National Lottery Heritage Fund grant application has been accepted.”

“It will be fantastic for the whole community and will have such a positive impact on how the school can make further connections with our local church. The new toilets will mean that children will now be able to use the church and its grounds for fieldwork and historical exploration as well as at special festivals and celebrations throughout the year.

History of the Church of West Huntspill

St Peter and All Hallows is known as one of the most historic churches in Somerset and is known as the ‘Cathedral of the Tiers’. It is believed that a Christian community had existed in Huntspill since the year 796 when, during the reign of the Saxon King Offa, the manor and lands of Huntspill were given to Glastonbury Abbey. Huntspill is listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Honspil.

There has been a church on this site since 1194. It was rebuilt in the 1400s and restored to its former glory after a fire in 1878. Today the pillars are still a unique red/orange color following of the fire.

The church features distinctive architectural details including perpendicular five leaf windows, carved stone gargoyles and battlements. The tower is believed to have been built in the 15th century.

In the village the church is the only Grade I listed building and the church and its tower are key to the village’s identity.

Martha J. Finley