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£600K for BIG Church Project

by Michael Ford last modified 16 Jul, 2021 05:47 PM

Blandford Parish Church has received over £600K from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for restoration and community engagement.

The members of the Blandford Parish Church BIG Church Project are thrilled to announce that they have been awarded a grant of £664,400 by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. This means that there are enough funds to overhaul the roof of the church building, which has been leaking and continually patched up over the decades.

All the repair and restoration works will be documented through a community photography project, which will be displayed both in the church and online.

600K for BIG Church Project- roof vaulting

The money will also allow for the development of even greater community engagement with the building. Alongside the repair work there will be an exciting project to research, record and explore, with the help of volunteers, the lives of those who have been connected with the church, from Hannah, ‘a Black Woman Servant of Mrs Holder’ who was baptised in the church in 1770, to George Vince, a Blandfordian who died by falling over an ice cliff while on one of Scott’s Antarctic Expeditions.

The project will also investigate the relationship between the church and various communities, including the Travellers, and will make Georgian costumes.

The resulting information will be shared with the church and town communities and visitors to the area in a series of exhibitions, events and workshops, in the church building itself and in partnership with Blandford Town Museum and Blandford Fashion Museum.

With the support of Dorset Wildlife Trust and Caring for God’s Acre, the church will monitor biodiversity in the churchyard - one of the main green spaces in the centre of town - and carry out improvements for wildlife.

600K for BIG Church Project- interior

To reflect the various pieces of historic graffiti to be found throughout the building, which will be recorded and preserved, everyone will have the chance to leave their mark on the church building.

All the tiles from the roof of the church will be removed so that the wooden battens underneath can be sorted. It is hoped that most of the tiles will be re-used, but some will have to be replaced. This means that people are being offered the chance to have their name or a suitable message recorded on the underside of the new tiles, in a scheme entitled ‘Tag-A-Tile’.

With scaffolding in place, work will include repairing high-level stonework, restoring and repairing damaged plaster inside the church, and insulating the roof. Building work starts in October 2021 and will be completed in May 2022.

Meanwhile, the research, exhibitions, and events will continue to develop and expand over many years, making the church building a place which contributes to a thriving local community.

600K for BIG Church Project- decorative roof vaulting above the altar

Commenting on the award, Sara Loch, Chairman of the Big Church Project, the group overseeing the project, said:

“We are thrilled to have received this grant without which we would not have been able to proceed with the repairs, or the forging of even stronger links with our local community due to the planned exhibitions and events. It will be wonderful to make the church building water-tight, after so many years. No more buckets scattered around the building! And make the space, both inside the church and outside in the churchyard, a vibrant community resource.”

Stuart McLeod, Director England - London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, says:

“We are thrilled to support the Blandford Parish Church and help them deliver an ambitious project that will restore this important community-gathering building so that it can be enjoyed for many years to come. Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, this two-year project will deliver an exciting volunteering programme to record and explore the stories of those who have been connected with the church through the centuries as well as engage a wider range of people with this historic building.”

Blandford Parish Church is the only Anglican church in the town of Blandford Forum. The maintenance of the church building is the responsibility of the Parochial Church Council (PCC), whose members, therefore, are the decision makers. However the day-to-day running of the project has been delegated to a sub-committee, the Big Church Project (Restore).

Using money raised by the National Lottery, The National Lottery Heritage Fund aims to "inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future."

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