After Years of Planning, St Mary’s has been Awarded Confirmed Funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund to Create a Centre for Music, Art and Culture in Walthamstow; Works to Begin in 2021
Walthamstow will benefit from a National Lottery grant of nearly £1.5 million to make St Mary’s Church in Waltham Forest a centre of music, art and culture. 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 9-12 months to complete. When finished, it will regenerate St Mary’s Church – the oldest building in Walthamstow and the centrepiece of Walthamstow’s ancient village – by repairing and renovating the church to make it more suitable for music, art and cultural activities. St Mary’s is a Grade II* listed building with foundations dating back to the 12th century and is where Walthamstow’s longest-standing Christian community meets.
The funding, which is 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 cultural events, including the popular St Mary’s Music Hall series of world, folk and jazz music.
St Mary’s has also come to an agreement with Froth & Rind, the coffee shop and cheesemonger in Walthamstow Village, to run a second location out of the church, creating a way for people to regularly enjoy Walthamstow’s ancient church and oldest building – the place where artist William Morris was baptised and where people from Walthamstow have gathered for over 900 years.
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 that was open in the day and 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.”
Stuart Hobley, Area Director London and 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.”
The renovations to the church will 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 also installed. St Mary’s is also working to attract additional funding to make public realm improvements near the church, especially to the car park, which it hopes to turn into public space.
Cllr Simon Miller, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Housing Development, Waltham Forest Council, said, “I am delighted that St Mary’s has been successful in securing Lottery Funding for its redevelopment plans, bringing much needed investment to one of landmark historic building and helping restore to its full glory. The Council is looking forward to working closely with the community at St Mary’s to ensure genuinely high quality public realm is created in the heart of Walthamstow village.”
While the church is selling assets to fund the full cost of the project and is also seeking donations from other national funders, St Mary’s still needs to raise additional money from local people for internal renovations and is planning a community-wide appeal for flexible, cathedral-like seating (stackable and lightweight steel and wood chairs) which will replace the current fixed church pews on the church’s ground floor, with the opportunity for local donors to have their names inscribed on a board that will be permanently displayed inside the church. More details on the scheme will be announced in the coming months.
“The project has been successful because of the contributions of dozens of parishioners and volunteers, but the professional efforts of Alex Spicer and Matthew Lloyd, of Matthew Lloyd Architects, Florence Andrews of Focus Consultants, and Sophia Mirchandani of Cultural Consulting Network have been invaluable and were crucial to our success,” Revd Vanessa Conant added. “The Diocese of Chelmsford also played a vital role in helping us secure this grant.”
About The National Lottery Heritage Fund
Using money raised by the National Lottery, we inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future (www.heritagefund.org.uk). Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund.
About St Mary’s Walthamstow
St Mary’s is a diverse and inclusive Church of England congregation of 300 people and a centre of arts, prayer and transformation. St Mary’s supports the Forest Churches Emergency Night Shelter, advocates for affordable housing and other important issues as a founding member of Waltham Forest Citizens (Citizens UK) and offers free debt counselling through its Christians Against Poverty Centre. St Mary’s is home to the St Mary’s Music Hall – a series of world, folk and jazz music – and is part of the Diocese of Chelmsford. (www.stmaryswalthamstow.org)
The Church Building and its Heritage
St Mary’s Church was built by the Normans in the 12th Century and has been associated with a number of historically significant people throughout its history, including the founder of the arts and crafts movement, William Morris, who was baptised in the church, and Sir George Monoux, a wealthy Tudor merchant and local benefactor who served as Lord Mayor of London. The church sits at the top of Walthamstow Village, has a working bell tower, extensive churchyards and occupies one of the largest conservation areas in Walthamstow. The church has been greatly altered over the centuries, but retains its original Norman foundations and is a nationally listed building, holding Grade II* status.
About St Mary’s Music Hall
St Mary’s Music Hall is a concert series showcasing the best in world, folk and jazz music in Walthamstow’s ancient church. Started in 2017 as a partnership between St Mary’s Church and SoundThread, the St Mary’s Music Hall aims to celebrate the diverse world cultures that make up Walthamstow and London. In 2018, St Mary’s was host to the London Jazz Festival, and over the past two years has welcomed such renowned artists as Martin Hayes, Martha Tilston, Soweto Kinch and the London Community Gospel Choir. The Music Hall now has a sister project – the St John’s Music Hall in nearby Leytonstone. (www.musichalls.org)
About Froth & Rind
Founded in 2015 by two local friends and entrepreneurs, Froth & Rind has quickly established itself as a popular gathering place in Walthamstow Village for coffee, toasties, craft beer and a wide range of cheeses. In 2018, Eater featured Froth & Rind as one of its nine best ‘under-the-radar’ places to eat in London as well as one of its best places for cheese (www.frothandrind.com).