Bishop of Southampton announces £800,000 renewal programme for historic Southampton church
The Bishop of Southampton has today announced that the Diocese of Winchester will be investing £800,000 to renew the iconic St Mary’s Church.
This funding will enable a major building project to be completed over the summer, including replacing the roof and repairing the internal fabric of the church, as well as works to enable the church to meet more closely the needs of the city. The project is being led by renowned local architect Columba Cook, and will enable St Mary’s, working with partner churches and communities, to continue to play an increasingly significant role at the heart of Southampton’s civic life.
This grant has been made available from Winchester Mission Action, the Diocese of Winchester’s ambitious plan to engage with the ‘missing generations’ of young people across Hampshire and East Dorset, bringing the Christian message to people who have not previously interacted with the Church of England. In addition to the building work, part of the funding will go towards establishing the leadership team at St Mary’s, who will work with the existing parish congregation to provide growing support to the community across Southampton. This team will include a new parish priest, the Rev Jon Finch, who will be licensed by the Bishop of Southampton later this year. The building works are scheduled to take place over the summer, with new leadership in place by September, when the church will be ready to welcome parishioners new and old, including the new cohort of students arriving in the city for the start of the academic year.
Announcing the plans, the Right Reverend Jonathan Frost, Bishop of Southampton, said:
“St Mary’s has a very special role to play at the centre of Southampton. This grant will not only fund the building works, which are so important to enable the building to meet the needs of the people it serves, but will also enable us to build a new team to work at the heart of the city. Over the summer we will see a great deal of activity at St Mary’s as the building works take place and the new team arrives, and I am looking forward to the next phase of St Mary’s contribution to our local community commencing in September.”
One of the aims of the proposals is to enable St Mary’s to better cater for the student population in Southampton. Prof Graham Baldwin, Vice-Chancellor of Southampton Solent University, said:
“We are pleased to hear of the plans to revitalise St Mary’s Church, which sits at the heart of our developing education quarter. The University has close links with the Church and faith communities locally, and this is good news for our students and the city centre more widely.”
St Mary’s is the oldest site of continuous Christian worship in Southampton, and is where St Birinus established his mission in 634AD. The present church was built in the late 19th century by Bishop Samuel Wilberforce, but much of the interior of the church was burned out during the Blitz in 1940 and had to be rebuilt in 1954. The church building has been adapted over the years, with the most recent addition being a new window designed to commemorate the sinking of the Titanic, which will be formally unveiled next month.
About Winchester Mission Action
Winchester Mission Action launched in December 2017 and will bring the Christian message to people who have not previously interacted with the Church of England. Through new projects designed to reach people in every location within the community, the Diocese of Winchester intends to re-establish the Church as a partner with other organisations in tackling challenges in society.
The projects which the funding will facilitate include reinvigorating the Christian presence in large urban centres and smaller villages, establishing new Christian communities in places where there are new housing developments and reaching out to students in further and higher education.