‘Help us revamp historic church’

09:38 29 January 2014

Father David Fletcher (middle) with Churchwardens Catherine Hart (left) and Jeremy Taylor (right) have big plans for Barnstaple Parish Church

Father David Fletcher (middle) with Churchwardens Catherine Hart (left) and Jeremy Taylor (right) have big plans for Barnstaple Parish Church

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Barnstaple Parish Church embarking on quarter-million pound renovation project

The church is in need of extensive refurbishment. PHOTO: Stuart MairThe church is in need of extensive refurbishment. PHOTO: Stuart Mair

BARNSTAPLE Parish Church is embarking on a massive £250,000 project to renovate the famous old building – and they need your help.

The church of St Peter and St Mary Magdelene in Paternoster Row is launching a renovation appeal in response to a growing list of increasingly urgent problems within the church building – parts of which date back to 1318.

And by their 700th anniversary in 2018, they hope to have made a number of vital improvements.

“We’ve had a number of events so far and are planning several more,” said churchwarden Catherine Hart. “The more people who can support them, the better.”

The church is in need of extensive refurbishment. PHOTO: Stuart MairThe church is in need of extensive refurbishment. PHOTO: Stuart Mair

The first target for the church is to raise enough to replace the old, inefficient and unreliable heating system.

That work alone could cost around £35,000, but they are optimistic they can complete that phase by the end of the year.

“The heating is the thing that makes the big difference as to how usable the church is for concerts and the congregation, and other things such as the Petroc graduation ceremony,” added Ms Hart.

“It’s a big space and is central in the town, but we’re quite restricted as to what we can do.

“It’s surprising how many organisations want to use it for their special services – we would love to offer it to more people, but it’s too cold. The church could become more viable as an earner when it’s refurbished.”

One urgent task is to replace the nave altar platform – a timber structure that needs rebuilding before it collapses.

Previous work, undertaken 30 years ago, has not lasted well and must now be stripped back and replaced with traditional materials. This could cost more than £200,000.

“The redecoration will have to be done in phases, as and when the finances permit,” said Father David Fletcher.

“It doesn’t look like there are problems you can’t solve with a ladder and a pot of paint, but it’s what’s underneath that is the issue.

“There are many things we would like to do. We would also like to screen in the Lady Chapel – the small altar used for weekday services – to make it warmer and more usable, especially for older people.

“We’d like to re-glaze the front door to create some sort of entrance lobby for visitors. It’s a very large project.

“It’s important that the public know we are not doing this for ourselves but for the town. The congregation can’t afford to fund it themselves and we need people to help out.”

The church, parts of which date back to Saxon times, has needed major work in the past, with a £100,000 organ restoration taking place in 1991 after the bells were recast and rehung in 1980.

On both occasions, the church was able to raise the money, but as churchwarden Jeremy Taylor pointed out, more people would have been involved in those times.

The next big fundraising event in the church’s renovation appeal is an ‘auction of promises’ being held at the Park Hotel on Wednesday, February 26.

They will be auctioning off various different things, from car MOTs to hot air balloon rides and beauty treatments, as well as entrance to places including Exmoor and Funderzone, and a bottle of whisky dating from 1939.

That event will take place at 7.30pm, with a buffet supper included at 7pm.

Tickets are £10, and can be purchased from Ridd’s Florist in Boutport Street or by calling Catherine on 07980 043305 or Jeremy on 01271 375440.

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