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Eddie Tulasiewicz text National Churches Trust and St Edburgs Bicester


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Notes for a presentation by Eddie Tulasiewicz, The National Churches Trust, Head of Communications and Public Affairs, The National Churches Trust. "Community facilities for parish churches: The National Churches Trust and St Edburg’s Church, Bicester, Oxfordshire". The presentation was given at a conference session entitled "Experiencing Change", part of the "Parish Church Interiors In Changing Times" conference, supported by Historic England.

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Eddie Tulasiewicz text National Churches Trust and St Edburgs Bicester

  1. 1. COMMUNITY PAPER BY EDDIE TULASIEWICZ Good morning. I’m Eddie Tulasiewicz, Head of Communications for the National Churches Trust. I’m very grateful to the organisers for having selected this paper for presentation. Yesterday, there were some extremely stimulating papers delivered. My paper is modest. I will tell you a bit about the National Churches Trust. Explain our work in helping churches as they attempt to become ‘domus ecclesia’ or perhaps community hubs. And then briefly describe a project we part funded at St Edburg’s church in Bicester. There are a lot of bodies with the words churches and trust in their title. The Churches Conservation Trust. The All Churches Trust. Indeed, The National Churches Trust, was formerly the Historic Churches Preservation Trust. It can at times be confusing. The National Churches Trust is a registered charity and our main charitable objectives is "promoting and supporting church buildings of historic, architectural and community value across the UK".[1] We aim to achieve this by mainly providing financial grants to repair and modernise church buildings, and also supporting projects to enable churches to remain open, collaborating with local Churches Trusts and volunteer bodies, providing practical advice, support and information, and working to promote public awareness about churches. And I’d echo what Lloyd Grosman said yesterday about the need to get out the message about churches - in 2013 we ran a project called the UK’s Favourite Churches, where 60 well know people, from David Cameron downwards, or maybe upwards, chose their favourite churches - this helped to show that churches are loved by many people of faith and also those without faith - Michael Palin, an agnostic with doubts is a good example of someone who loves churches but is not a believer. As I mentioned, our forerunner was the Historic Churches Preservation Trust, whose functions we have taken over, together with those of the Incorporated Church Building Society - formed in 1818 and responsible for funding many of England’s Victorian churches. As we heard yesterday, there is talk of a Royal Commission being set up to look at the future of churches. It may be of interest to know that in 1950 the Church of England Assembly (now the General Synod of the Church of England) established the Repair of Churches Commission to decide what should be done about the problem of the poor state of repair of English parish churches. This resulted in the creation of the Historic Churches Preservation Trust, which was registered as a charity in 1953.[2][3] Its first Secretary and Executive Committee Chairman was Ivor Bulmer-Thomas, a Conservative politician, the role of Secretary being taken over later in 1953 by Hugh Llewellyn Jones. Its Trustees included John Betjeman and Lord Cormack.
  2. 2. Today, the National Churches Trust supports church buildings of any denomination that are members of Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, and we cover the whole of the United Kingdom. We do not own churches, and we only support churches that are open for regular worship. We receive no funding from the Government or from church authorities and our income is derived from individual donations, and from parishes, Trusts and Foundations, and from investment income. Since 1953, we have helped around 12.000 churches, chapels and meeting houses with grants and loans for repairs. We are a small charity with limited resources but have given pretty much the equivalent of £1.5 m each year in grants to churches, when adjusted to today’s prices. When we started, we were one of a few grant makers - today of course, much more money is available from the HLF or the Government through the roof repair fund etc. One point to note is that we fund unlisted places of worship as well as listed places of worship. Our latest grants were announced yesterday and you can fund details on our website at We are one of very many trusts that churches can approach for help in funding projects. Although the Historic CPT mainly funded fabric repairs, the National CT increasingly finds that more and more demands are placed upon it for funding the installation of community facilities. Our funding of the installation of these facilities is clearly changing the appearance on many parish churches. But with the right architects and design, the impact can be positive - both for the physical fabric and the life of the church. We have identified this as a priority area and are unlocking funding previously restricted for fabric repairs so as to fund more of these projects. Why is this so? Maybe a good way to start is to hear from a church itself. As I stated, we announced 29 grants yesterday including and one of these was a £5,000 National Churches Trust Community Grant to the church of St Andrew in Wormingford. Essex, a Grade I listed building, to help fund the creation of a kitchen and an accessible toilet within the church tower. In their grant application, the the church told us said:”We are aware that worshippers and visitors travel to the Church from some distance, and express surprise that we are unable to offer refreshment or comfort. It is less than helpful to suggest that visitors walk at least 500 metres to the nearest amenities with toilets and these may not be open. Our mission to attract young children and the elderly is being severely hampered by the lack of facilities, including toilets, baby-changing or running water. We know that some Parishioners have elected not to attend the church due to the lack of facilities and are aware that couples who qualify to marry in the church are choosing other venues because of the lack of facilities. The Essex Association of Change Ringers has ceased using our church for bell-ringing events due to the lack of toilets or the ability to wash hands. The inability to provide simple refreshments in church prevents us from demonstrating Christian hospitality.”
  3. 3. There are an estimated 42,000 Christian places of worship in the UK, and as we heard yesterday 19,500 – over 40 per cent of them – are listed. The importance of these buildings as both places of worship and as historic buildings is undisputed. But church buildings need to play an increasingly important role in providing community facilities. That’s partly because churches want to serve their own congregations and the wider local community more effectively but also because the state is withdrawing from so much activity. Last month Haringey council announced that it would closing all its community centres and Oxfordshire County Council has said that it will be closing its family centres. Churches are a place where these activities can take place. As the only national charity supporting churches of all Christian denominations, sizes, ages and locations, the National Churches Trust is in a unique position to assess the requirements of the ecclesiastical estate. Therefore In 2010 we conducted a major national survey on how the UK’s church buildings are maintained and funded, and how they contribute to their wider communities. The survey was open to all Christian places of worship in the UK and, encouragingly, around 9,100 places of worship engaged with it. The overall message from the survey was extremely positive: church buildings are essential both to the UK’s heritage and to the vitality of towns and villages up and down the country. In addition to holding religious services, the survey estimated that nearly 80 per cent of church buildings are used for other purposes, including community activities, and nearly half are used for cultural activities, including arts, music and dance. Church buildings are significant venues for volunteering and the survey estimated that more than 40 per cent of the UK’s church buildings were being used for support and counselling services on issues such as homelessness, drug and alcohol misuse, finance and debt, parenting and mental health. Five years on, I suspect these numbers are higher. The survey also found that although many church buildings have key facilities, there is much room for improvement. It was estimated that nearly a third of the UK’s church buildings have no toilet facilities, and that listed buildings are generally the least well equipped. Many church buildings also lack adequate heating or tea and coffee-making facilities. Those which do have these basic facilities are more likely to offer additional community activities. If demand from churches for community facilities was not enough, there is also support from the public. In December 2014, the National Churches Trust commissioned an Opinion Poll on attitudes to church buildings from the polling company ComRes. A sample of 2,000 people from all around Britain were surveyed on line. 87% agreed that churches and chapels should have good access and modern facilities such as toilets to make it easier for people to use them. THE COMMUNITY GRANTS PROGRAMME
  4. 4. The importance of providing facilities such as toilets and kitchens and improved access for members of the public is now widely recognised as a key way in which churches can remain at the heart of local communities. That is why, since 2008, the National Churches Trust in addition to a Repair Grants programme, has been running a Community Grants Programme. The programme aims to enable wider and more active community use through the installation of new facilities and so ensure that the UK’s churches and chapels remain living buildings integrated into their local communities. Since 2008 the trust has awarded 178 Community grants since totalling £1,912,200.Funding is modest - it can be as high as 20,000 or as small as 5,000. Applications for the community grants programme are assessed by the National Churches Trust’s grants committee using the following criteria which was chaired until a week ago by the Bishop of Salisbury, Nick Holtam. • Benefit – what is the demonstrable social benefit of the proposed project? • Design quality – has its impact on the building been considered/challenged? • Stakeholder participation – what planning, organisation and coordination efforts have or will be carried out by the place of worship to maximise the project’s chances of success?  Attainability – is the project practical and attainable? Will a grant enable the work to be carried out? A prime example of a place of worship benefitting from a community grant is the church of St Edberg in Bicester in the Diocese of Oxford. Bicester is today a growing market town, perhaps increasingly well known for Bicester designer outlet shopping centre. It is one of the fastest growing towns in the UK. St Edberg dates from the 12th century and the church underwent a restoration from 1862 - 1863 with the help of G E Street, about whom we heard yesterday The church applied for a community grant to the National Churches Trust in 2013, with a plan to install two toilets, a servery and to repair the floor at a level to enable disabled access. This was the second phase of a major re-ordering project which started with redecoration and rewiring. (the final phase will involve removing pews and putting down a new limestone floor. It was mainly through the arrival of a new vicar, Revd Canon Theresa Scott that the re-ordering project was taken forward - she saw that it was important to update the building for modern usage as part of a broader mission to serve the community better. The total cost of works, including fees was 201,000. When they applied to us, they had a funding deficit of 41,000, having already raised funds from WREN and Viridor from the landfill tax, Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust and the LPW VAT Grants scheme. We awarded them a grant of £10,000
  5. 5. Led by architects Acanthus Clews, toilets were installed in the former baptistery, in the NW corner of the church. The mediaeval font was moved to enable this space to be converted. Not only was this the only suitable area for toilets to be installed but also the positioning of the font meant that it was hidden from the rest of the church. The original Edwardian panelling in the baptistery was reconstructed to form the new screen across the alcove. The door to the toilet lobby is new but was made skilfully so it is impossible to distinguish between new and old. Subsequently two toilet cubicles (one with disabled access) and a storage cupboard were fitted out, with oak doors to match the outer door. A local heater for hot water in the washbasins was located in the storage cupboard. The whole toilet area has a flat ceiling to prevent sounds or odours escaping. An old suspended wooden floor across the rest of the West End area was removed, exposing the bare earth beneath. Other tiled areas of flooring were also removed, as was the font, its stone plinth and the parquet flooring around it. Thw limecrete floor was then laid with the appropriate sub-strata and underfloor heating was incorporated at this stage. Finally, the floor was finished with Creeton limestone floor tiles. At the other side of the church, the SW corner, a servery was installed. This comprises a double sink, refrigerator, dishwasher, under-counter cupboards and a water heater. The worktop is Corian and the woodwork is oak. The whole blends well with the colouring of the stone floor and is not obtrusive. For safety reasons the work top encloses the complete area and the only entrance is via a half door which can be bolted from the inside. A complete programmable heating system has been installed in the tower, replacing the existing unreliable and uncontrollable boiler, located in a dark damp cellar. Outside, a foul drain has been laid to connect the toilets with the public sewage system, and a water mains connection has been installed, whilst the gas supply main has been re-positioned to supply the new boiler. The most visually striking part of the project was the relocation of the font which is now on a small plinth in the centre of the west end, under the impressive tower arch, and in line with the altar. The tiling pattern under the tower and in the chancel was replicated around the font. Finally, wherever possible, materials have been recycled: the pine parquet flooring, some pitch pine floorboards, many of the Minton Victorian floor tiles and some supporting bricks were all been sold for domestic re-use, while the stone plinth of the font was kept (on the architect’s advice) for future use in the church as the stone is of high quality. The project was completed in early 2014, with the opening celebrations taking place in July 2014. The aim has been to attract a wider range of users.
  6. 6. The PCC developed a marketing and management strategy designed to encourage a greater variety of users, ranging from commercial interests to community organisations. In particular the provision of toilets in the church is already increasing the attendance at events; the improvement in heating is also beneficial to attendees and is a welcome feature during the winter. In the first few months after the project was completed the church has been used for adult concerts, a photographic exhibition, a Fairtrade AGM, three children’s concerts organised by the Rotary Club and a number of school groups. The new location of the font allows full use of the font with people clustered around, in full view of the congregation, without fear of the priest falling off the high plinth. As a result it is now used for all baptisms instead of using a portable wooden font. The church says that : “The stunning visual impact is beyond our expectations: it links the west and east end in a manner which is both aesthetically and liturgically pleasing. The standard of craftsmanship has been very high throughout, but especially in the tiling and carpentry. Some small but significant details were done by the contractor in a way which enhanced the final result, and other improvements to the design were made during the job as a result of their suggestions. Their attention to detail and their desire to deliver an outstanding end product were evident in all that they did; many people have been impressed by the quality of the toilet installation, and much praise has been forthcoming from the congregation and visitors alike.” St Edberg’s has already drawn up plans for the next phase; the raising and relaying of the nave floor in the same stone as the West End, together with underfloor heating to this area, and improved all round access. Costs are high and the challenge is to relaunch the vision to the congregation and fund raise in an increasingly challenging environment- made even more challenging by the discovery of the need for urgent stonework repairs and a new drainage system, discovered at the last quinquennial inspection It may be fitting to end with a prayer written by Revd Magie Durrant and used regularly during by the parish during the building project. Dear God, we remember with gratitude those who built, repaired and adapted St Edburg’s church for over 900 years. As we work to tackle the building challenges of our generation, we ask for your grace and hope; we ask for courage and determination. We trust in you to enable us to deliver work worthy of the place where we worship and serve you, almighty God; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen