Building Anew at St Mary with St Alban

Vicar’s Introduction

I’m delighted to share the new plans we have for what we’re calling ‘Building Anew’. We’ve been working very hard behind the scenes to develop a new scheme with our architect. And we now feel very confident that this not only meets our needs but enhances our historic building and the way it relates to the beautiful churchyard around it. We’ve been encouraged by positive feedback from Heritage England and the Diocese of London and we now seek the feedback of our local community. Please let us know what you think by emailing us on future@stmarywithstalban.org.

Covid has made us all the more aware of the need for connection. Our church has always been a wonderful place to connect with God. But it should also be a place to connect with one another in our community. To do this well we need the facilities to support good, lengthy connection time: a kitchen to serve drinks from, a space to meet and chat and, not least, some toilets. Our recent series of events for ‘Love Your Burial Ground Week’ showed the potential for great connections with talks every day and 350 school children spending time in our grounds. But it required us to hire two ugly portaloos and we’d have really struggled if the weather hadn’t been so favourable.

So I commend these plans to you. I believe they will be truly transformational, not just for our building but also for the way we connect with one another. Building Anew is about relationships as much as bricks and mortar. And after Covid has taken its toll in so many ways, we need this more than ever.

Best wishes,
Joe

Overview of our Building Anew project

We are privileged to worship in an historic parish church set within a beautiful churchyard. Today, it is up to us to ensure that this wonderful oasis in the middle of a busy London suburb continues to flourish and provide for the spiritual and other needs of our community.

To achieve this we face a challenge! Our church has no toilets, kitchen facilities or flexible gathering/meeting space. This greatly curtails the use we can make of our beautiful building. Although we are lucky enough to have a Parish Hall with facilities, it lies across a busy main road with no safe crossing place, making it difficult to access for many, especially the young, the elderly and those with disabilities. We are seeking to remedy this by providing fully accessible toilets, a kitchenette and a meeting space adjoining the church, enabling us to extend our welcome to all.

After months of hard work by the project team and the governance group under the guidance of the PCC, we have designed a space to provide the facilities we need to make our church more welcoming and fit for purpose. We have considered a wide range of approaches, with expert input sought across all relevant areas, including the heritage of the building, engineering, accessibility, archaeology, the churchyard, environmental impact and future sustainability. The design seeks to preserve all the significant historic features of our church, maximise the use of the space available within the existing building and add a sympathetic extension providing toilets, kitchen facilities and a new multi-purpose space – the Garden Room.

The Garden Room Extension

The Garden Room will be on the north side of the church, replacing the current choir vestry which will be demolished. It will be accessed directly from a new doorway in the north wall of the church via a glass-walled passageway. The new doorway will be created by enlarging the window opening nearest the organ on the north wall, with the stained-glass window currently located there restored and repositioned to replace the clear glass central window.

The extension will have glass walls on the north and west sides opening up views onto our glorious churchyard. Two toilets – one accessible with baby-change facilities – will be located off the passageway. The west wall of the Garden Room will contain a kitchenette complete with sink, microwave and dishwasher. The Garden Room will be large enough to host coffee after services, Children’s Church and other church and community groups linked to the church during the week. The new extension will also free up availability in the Parish Hall for community use and commercial hire, bringing in much-needed additional revenue.

The Garden Room will benefit from direct access to the churchyard, with a south-facing door onto a Mary Garden, providing a welcoming entrance from the south and east sides of the church. A contemporary glass artwork will be commissioned to be integrated into the east wall of the Garden Room to echo the existing stained-glass windows in the church, adding ambience and bringing in further light. The whole extension is designed as an integrated space with the church, which will be step-free and accessible from both church and churchyard.

Internal re-ordering of the church

To minimise the size of the extension and keep costs as low as possible, the proposed design includes a re-ordering of the rooms in the northeast of the church to make the most efficient use of its existing footprint.

Firstly, the significant amount of space in the current organ chamber will be liberated by replacing the pipe organ with a new state-of-the-art digital organ. Experts have confirmed that the current pipe organ is of no historical significance and not a high-quality instrument. Replacement of this with a new digital organ (with 20 drawstops) will improve the sound quality as well as free up the space currently occupied by the pipes and bellows.

This area will become the sacristy (used by the clergy before and after services), with a mezzanine floor inserted to accommodate storage above. It will be accessed by a new doorway and staircase from the current sacristy (the room to the left of the altar) which will become the new choir vestry. This room can also be used as a further meeting room when not required by the choir.

Costings, Permissions and Dates

At this stage, our quantity surveyor has estimated the total project cost to be in the region of £1 million. The construction work has not yet been put out to tender, however, and more precise costings will be finalised only once planning permission has been granted. After that, we will begin our fundraising appeal with the objective of completing construction in 2023.

The extension and the internal re-ordering described above already have the support of London Diocese, Historic England and other statutory bodies. We are delighted to present this design to you for your comments and feedback before we apply to Richmond Council for planning permission. We hope you agree that it represents an exciting opportunity to make our beautiful church fit for purpose today and able to flourish into the future.

Please email your comments/feedback to: future@stmarywithstalban.org.

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