Preserving the heritage of St Magnus with the Culture Recovery Fund

Press Release: Mar 2021

In October 2020 we were awarded a grant of £230,000 from the Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) specifically towards helping us continue to preserve our heritage for the benefit of all as we continue to adapt to the huge challenges that the pandemic has created. This presented us with great opportunities to bring the church building up to a standard when it could once again safely open to visitors in a post-COVID environment and preserve and present its historic heritage in a contemporary and accessible manner. Along with this came the challenge of having to disburse this grant over various projects before March 31st 2021, a challenge made more acute given the constraints of the present lockdown.

A Heritage Working Group (HWG) was swiftly convened under the adroit chairmanship of David Pearson, who had steered the original application through its various levels and meeting online every week except over the Christmas/New Year period. The membership of this group includes the Rector, two Churchwardens and members of the Parochial Church Council (PCC), taking charge of various projects which were identified as falling within the remit of the grant conditions. Another member of the group was also invited to take control of compliance to ensure that we were well within the terms laid down by the CRF.

A  budget was drawn up, contingency plans made, and some of the smaller projects have already be completed. These include the inscription memorial to William Petter, our former Director of Music, for which a faculty had already been granted. The detailed model of old London Bridge, crafted by the late David Aggett, which is in normal times a great draw to visitors and school groups alike, has been fully restored. A new humidifier for the organ has replaced the old one. Clear perspex screens have been ordered to ensure the safety of the choir members and organist. We have also upgraded the security in the church, which is especially important in these times of lockdown when our heritage is more vulnerable.

Other smaller projects about to begin include the restoration of the Coverdale memorial, the Mayoral sword rest, and we have made it safer to climb into the clock winding room and the cupula in the bell tower. The memorial to those whose remains were excavated from the crypt in the 19th century and removed to Brookwood Cemetery is to be restored.

Major projects which have begun are a virtual tour of the church using 360 degree photography and use of a drone camera. A new cabinet to display the above mentioned model of London Bridge has been commissioned. Parish records will be digitalised prior to being made accessible on the web, to which end the parish website will be enlarged and expanded. To better illuminate the various heritage items within the church, a new lighting scheme has been designed, work on which will soon begin, along with audio/visual recording equipment to live-stream the Sunday Mass as well as concerts, lectures etc. Our Living History Project is underway and a professional historian has been researching hitherto little-known aspects of our history, while we have also been engaging with the public to draw out the contributions of diverse communities.

It has long been our desire to have an accessible toilet, and plans have been drawn up, shortly to be effected for this, as well as for a second additional toilet. This will make the church more able to host in-person cultural events when circumstances allow. To lessen our carbon footprint, and in accord with the Church of England’s ambition to reduce to zero emissions by 2030 we are replacing our antiquated heating boiler with a much more efficient model. We have also appointed an energy champion to explore other ways in which we can reduce our carbon footprint.

This has involved much work and cooperation between the HWG, the church architect and the firms who have tendered for the various projects, as well as continued correspondence with the CRF. The way in which the HWG has been praised by the Archdeacon of London as a model which other churches could emulate, and indeed members of our group have given their expertise not only to delivering the projects at St Magnus, but have advised other churches making similar applications for funding.

These have indeed been challenging times, but working through them, and being positive has helped to contribute towards making St Magnus what Dame Sarah Mullaley has called ‘a beacon in the City.’

BUILDING WORK at St Magnus during MARCH

During the month of March, the Church and Vestry House will resemble something of a building site as work begins in earnest on the various projects relating to the Lottery Heritage Grant. For ease of accommodation with the builders, the Tuesday mass will revert to its former time of 12.30, thus allowing them to have their lunch break during Mass time. When their work occupies them in the north aisle, we may have to move to one of the other altars, or even erect a temporary one in the church. The other option was to close the church entirely, and not one I wished to explore.

The Thursday Mass remains suspended this month, except for The ANNUNCIATION on March 25th when Mass will be celebrated at 12.30.

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The Fraternity

A Fraternity was founded in 1343 for the purpose of singing the hymn Salve Regina – a practice that was repeated in a number of other churches of medieval London.