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Heritage Lottery Fund award for urgent repairs to Hope Baptist Church

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

With an award from the Heritage Lottery Fund's 'Grants for Places of Worship', Hope Baptist Church in Hebden Bridge has received the best Easter gift it could have wished for. A grant of £215,000 enables the church to complete urgent repairs to its listed building. Combined with grants from many other sources, the church will have undertaken £1m of repairs and improvements on the chapel when this project is completed.

Following community consultation six years ago, the church decided to transform its Grade II listed building into a sanctuary space for everyone in Hebden Bridge, focusing on Spiritual and Emotional Wellbeing. The church was founded in 1777 and its current building, built in 1857, is a fine example of the dozens of non-conformist chapels erected during the nineteenth century. However, declining congregations and years of neglect had left it in a poor condition.

Previous support from Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) had enabled the church to re-roof the chapel, restore high-level stonework and completely replaster and redecorate the interior. The new grant, which includes an initial development phase, covers most of the cost of repairs to the roof and stonework of the Sunday School Rooms at the rear of the chapel and even to the original wrought iron gates at the entranceways.

Grants from HLF have been added to by support from more than twenty other supporters, ranging from local organisations, such as the Town Council and Rotary Club, to national charities and trusts, including Garfield Weston Foundation and National Churches Trust.

Project Co-ordinator for the church, Gerard Liston told the HebWeb, "We are naturally thrilled by this further support for our work. Hope Baptist Church is a small congregation with a big heart for the community it serves and bold aims for the future. We are conscious of the strong heritage of the place but also acutely aware of how many other churches are closing down. The members had a strong sense that this building could become a valuable and inspiring resource at the heart of Hebden Bridge. This latest funding is a huge encouragement."

Responding to community feedback and with guidance from English Heritage, the church decided not to remodel the church interior, but to retain the large curved gallery and sense of spaciousness. Apart from worship services, the chapel space has been used as a venue for

  • a blues festival
  • mindfulness courses
  • street choirs festival
  • recording studio
  • and even for Guardian columnist George Monbiot to speak from the pulpit to an audience of over 200 at last year's Hebden Bridge Arts festival.

Over the next couple of months, the church will host a performance by world-famous Christian songwriter Stuart Townend and a weekend folk festival.