Modernisation project moved forward with OHCT grant of £15,000
A long-held ambition to provide modern facilities at the near-1,000-year-old Grade I church was given new impetus some six years ago when a working group commenced research into other projects around the county. After widespread consultation on the project’s content it was agreed to proceed with a new extension (click here to view plans) which would include a meeting room (to accommodate up to 40 seated), three toilets (one accessible), a kitchen and an office. Following appointment of Robert Montgomery Architects Ltd and an appeal launch by Sir Roy Strong FRSL in 2015, planning permission was gained two years later.
A grant from OHCT of £15k was the first of a list which now includes 16 different grant-aiding bodies, currently representing over £300k. The former was so valuable in giving encouragement to other bodies to support the project. In order to take full advantage of all the grants promised it was essential to commence work this year. The Right Reverend Colin Fletcher, Bishop of Dorchester, “wielded the first spade” at a ceremony on the 3rd May 2019 in the company of Richard Blair, the adopted son of Eric Blair (George Orwell) – his father is famously buried in the churchyard.
When the project was first launched four years ago the estimated cost of the entire project was around £500k. Many factors have conspired in the interim period to inflate the cost by 50%. There have been recent setbacks on a site which the contractors, Hillsdon of Wantage, have claimed one of their most challenging locations (access, archaeological findings, permissions etc.). Unfortunately this has led to delays and the current funds of £580k fall short of what is required to complete the first (major) phase.
Inspection of the site in mid-August reveals that the base is now already for the superstructure blockwork, work has commenced on re-roofing the 1960s vestry (which will eventually include the new office). Vital Peters, the Oxford-based artist, is finalising his design for a specially commissioned stained glass window. Completion of the first phase is estimated to be the spring of 2020.
The working group are researching new avenues for grant funding and the fund-raising activities continue so that the aspirations of 2013 can be fully realised at this beautiful church.