General News

Heritage Lottery Fund backs restoration of historic St Mary’s Church in Kemptown

Besi Besemar January 30, 2015

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has given initial support for the restoration of the historic exterior of St Mary’s Church on the corner of St James Street and Rock Gardens.

St Mary's Church
St Mary’s Church

THE church has received £17,000 to enable it to investigate problems in the building’s fabric and develop its application for a full grant of £228,700.

The grant would see major work carried out in 2016 to restore its west-facing elevation along Upper Rock Gardens.

The red brick neo-Gothic church, which is listed Grade-II, was built in 1878. It occupies a commanding position at the top of St James’s Street, on the corner with Upper Rock Gardens, in the Kemptown area of Brighton. An active Anglican church, it is also one of the most innovative and affordable performance venues in the city and is especially popular with LGBT groups as a performances space.

Priest-in-charge Fr Andrew Woodward said: “I’m very happy that the Heritage Lottery Fund has agreed that St Mary’s is worthy of restoration. Ten years ago we were threatened with closure. Now we have a bright future and every day we’re finding new ways of sharing our beautiful space with the wider community.”

The grant will also lay the ground for several heritage activities in 2016, including a public art project on the scaffolding hoarding that will run the church’s length on Upper Rock Gardens and community-led exhibition about people’s memories of the streets and buildings around the church, many of which were demolished in the 1960s and 70s.

Stuart McLeod, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund South East, added: “There is a place of worship in almost every ward, village and town across the South East region, providing a very powerful visual connection with our past. Not only will our awards secure the immediate future of these particular buildings, they will also empower congregations to find new ways to use them and new ways to engage communities in the heritage they offer.”

St Mary’s Venue Manager Katherine Prior, said: “It’s very exciting. A facelift for the church means a facelift for the neighbourhood, which is good news for everyone who lives and works around us. And our public art project and community exhibition will be a great way of encouraging local people to engage with each other and their surroundings.”