Banbury’s historic St Mary’s Church is to receive £100,000 of public funding to pay for vital repairs to its roof, it was announced last week.
The money comes from the Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund, a government-sponsored fund set up to help make places of worship for all faiths weathertight, safe and open for use.
The fund is administered by the National Heritage Memorial Fund on behalf of the Department for Culture Media and Sport. It was set up after the Chancellor of the Exchequer committed £15 million of funding in last year’s Autumn Statement.
All listed places of worship were invited to make applications to the fund by the end of January. The high demand prompted the Chancellor to allocate an additional £40 million in his 2015 Budget, doubling the number of grants originally expected to be awarded.
St Mary’s, which was added to English Heritage’s ‘at risk’ register in 2014, is one of 502 places of worship that will receive grants of between £10,000 and £100,000 to meet the costs of urgent repairs to roofs and guttering.
Priest-in-Charge Rev Linda Green said: “I was delighted when I heard the news because the church roof is in desperate need of repair. There is a lot of damp at the east end of the church and we can’t really use areas like the choir vestry at the moment.
“The funding will be an enormous boost and will help us to preserve St Mary’s not just for our congregation but for the whole town’s benefit.
“I would like to pay tribute to the team who put our bid together. It was thanks to their hard work that we secured the full amount of money we applied for.”
St Mary’s, which is shared by the Church of England and the United Reformed Church, was built in the last decade of the 18th century.
The Georgian building’s features include spectacular blue vaulting, gilded columns and more than 20 stained glass windows. Previous restoration work has been carried out with support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, charities and local businesses.
The news of its successful grant application was welcomed by Banbury MP Sir Tony Baldry, a long-time supporter of the church. The announcement came on the last day of Parliament before the general election, marking his last day as an MP and Second Church Estates Commissioner.
He said: “I was extremely grateful to the Chancellor when he announced that funds would be made available for the repair of church roofs and St Mary’s were extremely diligent in getting their application in before the deadline in January.
“This will obviously be very welcome money for St Mary’s. It is the only Grade I listed building in the town and suffers from the fact that the Horton stone is very soft.”
The Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund has also awarded £38,600 to St Peter and St Clare, Fenny Compton.