An £8 million vision to make St Wulfram’s Church the centre of a regeneration project for Grantham has been revealed.
Details of the project were given at a launch in the church on Wednesday night by Father Stuart Cradduck, rector of St Wulfram’s, together with the Bishop of Lincoln, the Rt Rev Christopher Lowson, and architect Richard Broughton.
The ‘Sacred Space, Common Ground’ project is aimed at transforming the church and town over three years.
The trio outlined a project which will create a music centre, social enterprise café, community hall, education centre and administrative centre to be located in Swinegate, close to the church.
Another phase of the project will see the building made into a much improved visitor experience.
The church was described as “cluttered” with dated visitor facilities, a lacklustre churchyard and poor access.
Guests gathered to hear how it has many attributes which could be used to increase visitor numbers, not least the Trigge library, the first public library in the country, which was used by Sir Isaac Newton.
A third phase of the project is a heritage skills employment and learning centre. This will employ experts in masonry, carpentry and glass and create three apprenticeships. The centre would provide the skills and training needed to maintain the church on a daily basis, as well as the numerous heritage buildings in the town.
Fr Stuart told the Journal the church had had the promise of a gift of money which amounted to about half the £8m needed for the project.
He said previous controversial plans to build a heritage centre in the churchyard over the top of old graves would no longer take place.
Fr Stuart told the Journal: “It’s still a massive project, a multi-million pound project. This is all about improving people’s lives. We are very determined to deliver this in two to three years. We will have this resource centre bringing jobs in and giving people skills.”
Local architect Richard Broughton, who is working on the project with the church, said: “I think this is a massive opportunity for more than just the building, but for Grantham. I think this is a very untapped resource. If we can get more people into the centre of the town and then have something to anchor that at the end of the town then you have that flow of people coming through. It’s about creating jobs, it’s about that legacy through creating apprentices.
“There should be hundreds of thousands of people coming through here. It’s a compelling story and when you walk in here the physicality of the space is quite impressive. It’s all here, 500 to 600 years of history. I think this will be great for the church, but it will be amazing for the town. Now we need get pounding the stage and get people on board and get working with people across the community.”
Mr Broughton said the project would create at least 20 jobs, but that number coulb be substantially more.
The Rt Rev Lowson told the meeting that it was an “ambitious and imaginative” project to strengthen the ministry of St Wulfram’s, to serve God and to serve the community “by supporting people, by inspiring increasing numbers of tourists to enjoy the building, hoping that some of those tourists will become pilgrims.”
Coun Matthew Lee, Leader of South Kesteven District Council, said: “This is fundamentally important to the redevelopment, the improvement of our town and we as South kesteven District Council will stand behind you to make sure it can happen.”