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St Mary’s plan for a £250k hall

Historic church looking to expand in the 21st century

FOR THE FUTURE: Churchwardens Ann Collier and Tina Grout hope people will support the plans for a community hall at St Mary’s Church
FOR THE FUTURE: Churchwardens Ann Collier and Tina Grout hope people will support the plans for a community hall at St Mary’s Church

AND so it came to pass that one of the country’s oldest churches expanded in the 21st century with a new community hall. The original St Mary the Virgin church was built near Reculver Towers about 1,500 years ago. Now, The Friends of St Mary’s are hoping to secure its future for the next 1,000 years by extending it with a hall for community groups and events. The project could cost up to £250,000 but the group are undaunted and hope the town will support their plans. Churchwarden Ann Collier said:

“We have so much we want to do, including more groups for children and families, but we are hampered by space. As well as being used by the church, the hall would be available to groups or for private hire and we have already had some inquiries. The school is very supportive too and I don’t think there will be any problem finding people to use it once it is built.”

The annexe, linked to the church by a covered walkway, would have doors that open to reveal a view of Reculver Towers. The group hope to also have the historic cross from the original church in the lobby. At the moment it is stored at Canterbury Cathedral but group chairman Judy Challis has contacted officials about a move. Fellow churchwarden Tina Grout said:

“It would be part of the entrance hall and a real feature of the building, and a link between old and new. The church itself features some of the stones and original features from the old church that were reused when it was moved away from the cliffs so it would give a feeling of unity to the hall.”

Initial plans for the hall were rejected by church officials but the latest drawings, by architect Robert George, have so far won approval. Supporters are waiting for the final confirmation from the diocese before formally lodging a planning application. But fundraising for the project has already started, and a silent auction at the weekend added £500 to the total.

Architect

Crown Kitchens have offered a kitchen, another large donation will pay for other fittings or fixtures and the architect has agreed to be paid in installments. The money raised by the Friends is in addition to the £28,000 the church must raise each year as its contribution to the diocese. Mrs Collier said:

“We are hoping most of the money for the build will come from grants but we must also raise a significant amount. It is a daunting figure but we have a very good team and we hope we will be supported by the congregation and the community.”

Herne Bay Times, March 20th 2014

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