Grant award success for St John's Lancaster

The Architectural Heritage Fund has granted £17,355 to the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) towards a project to find a new use for the Church of St John the Evangelist in Lancaster.
The Grade II*-listed church was declared redundant in 1981 and vested in CCT in 1983. CCT is the national charity protecting churches at risk and cares for over 350 churches nationwide. St John’s has been closed to the public since 2015 when Storm Desmond caused flooding in the city centre.  Subsequent problems have included both wet and dry rot.

A successful fundraising campaign – Stop the Rot – tackled the most urgent of these issues and CCT has recently invested £51,875 to fund vital repairs with support from the government’s Cultural Recovery Fund.  Nonetheless, further investment is required to fully repair and conserve the church and to provide new facilities – such as WCs, kitchen, and disabled access.

Earlier this year, the CCT began working with the Lancaster & District Chamber of Commerce to find a sustainable new use for St John’s. Market research identified the need for high-quality co-working and event spaces to support small and medium-sized enterprises in Lancaster, helping local people to grow their businesses and the city centre to flourish. Match-funding for the Architectural Heritage Fund grant has been provided by the Chamber of Commerce and by CCT.

With previous funding from the Architectural Heritage Fund, the CCT commissioned Buttress Architects to explore how St John’s might be sensitively converted for use as a co-working and event space. The Buttress proposals are for a ‘marketplace’ in the nave at St John’s – adapting the church’s historic box pews to create individual desk spaces and space for events and networking with further meeting and workspaces provided in the upper galleries. A new coffee shop and churchyard garden would be open to members of the public. An extension in the north-eastern corner of the churchyard would provide additional facilities including WCs and a lift.  

Now, CCT and the Chamber of Commerce are working together to complete a full business plan, survey the condition of the building, assess the full costs of repair, explore fundraising opportunities, and consider ways in which the regenerated building might mitigate the effects of climate change and achieve net-zero.  This will allow CCT to unlock support pledged by Lancaster City Council, who have offered to fund 20% of the capital costs (up to £500,000) towards conservation repair work providing a sustainable new use for the building can be found.

President of the Chamber of Commerce Jon Powell said: “Lancaster and District Chamber of Commerce are delighted to be working with the Churches Conservation Trust to develop options for a new and sustainable use for St John’s Church, turning a historic local landmark into a 21st-century working environment and space for local businesses and the local community. The Chamber has been supporting businesses, connecting them, and representing their interests for over 124 years. We are excited to be working on plans for how St John’s can be refurbished as an iconic space for our business and local community as we look forward to an exciting future in the Lancaster District.”  

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