Plans for Woolsthorpe Church to have business centre, cafe and climbing wall

St James Church, Woolsthorpe-by-Belvoir.

St James Church, Woolsthorpe-by-Belvoir.

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A village church hopes to make itself the focus of the community by creating a business centre and public meeting space inside the building.

The Woolsthorpe Parochial Church Council has been awarded a grant of £9,972 from the Big Lottery Fund to carry out a feasibility study into turning the church into a business and education centre as well as a place of worship for use by the whole community.

The Rev Keith Hanson says adapting the church for other uses by the community is necessary to secure its future.

Rev Hanson said: “The church was facing closure some years ago and we looked at ways of saving it. We went to English Heritage for a grant to make it safe. We now have a sound building which is dry. That was the start of it and that part of the project has just finished.”

The congregation had been forced to hold its services in the village hall because of damage caused by a burst water main. Damage to the foundations caused by the leak caused cracks in supporting pillars inside the church and the sinking of the pews. The decision was taken to close the church because of safety concerns.

Now with a restored building, Rev Hanson says there are plans to use it as a community space which could include a community cafe, public meeting space and a business centre. There are also plans to put a climbing wall in the tower and provide some kind of outdoor pursuits centre.

Rev Hanson said: “It’s very exciting. Churches are more than just for Sundays. We want to bring our church back to the community. This way we can save the church, but it will still be used for services, weddings, christenings etc. It will be a multi-purpose building.

“We have a wonderful team of people who have come forward to save their church. These days we have a policy of not closing churches where we can. They are very important buildings in their communities. People from the village were very concerned when I told them of the possibility the church may have to close and that galvanised people into action.

“St James has been saved for generations to come. It has been a little miracle in itself.”

Rev Hanson said the plans for the church will cost a lot of money over the next three or four years and there will be applications for further grants.

The church was designed by G. G. Place in the 1840s and completed with the construction of the tower in 1893.