Heritage Minister, Ed Vaizey visits CCT's Sandwich churches

Mr Vaizey was joined by the CCT’s Trustee Duncan Wilson and Director (South East) – Peter Aiers as well as members of the Friends Group of both churches.

St Mary’s occupies what may be the oldest church site in Sandwich and is a very popular event venue in the town. CCT is pleased to have the St Mary’s Community Trust (SMCT) running the building on a day to day basis. The CCT and the SMCT have been working on a proposal to develop the venue so that it can be used more often and more profitably.

St Peter’s church is a landmark in the historic town of Sandwich and holder of an ancient tradition. The church has just had been through a major conservation project and a visitor interpretation project. The visitor project was created by the local community with support from the CCT and other experts and was generously funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The highlight of the creation of the interpretation was when the banners were paraded around the town before being hung in the church!

The CCT spent has spent £160,000 on the repairs and cleaning of the church and the visitor project cost £52,000 with a contribution of £39,200 from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards the cost.

Both churches are important examples of how CCT is working to sustain heritage through volunteering, tourism and community use. The grant from the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) provides a key part of the funding of the projects that The Churches Conservation Trust delivers.

Peter Aiers, Director (South East), The Churches Conservation Trust said:

”The project at St Peter’s never would have gone ahead without the enthusiasm and knowledge of the Friends of St Peter’s as well as their financial support. The building is now a key visitor attraction in the town as well as a community hub. We are also extremely grateful to the St Mary’s Community Trust who have been running St Mary’s like clockwork. We are actively working with them to find ways of achieving the full potential of the site”

 Ed Vaizey, Minister for Heritage says:

“The Churches Conservation Trust do a fantastic job caring for over 340 beautiful historic buildings which attract almost two million visitors a year.  They are masters at finding clever solutions to bring church buildings back to life when they are no longer needed for regular worship.

 “Here in Kent we see two very different churches in one location. There is the intimate and atmospheric St Mary’s on what might be the oldest church site in Sandwich, and the larger, lofty St Peter’s Church which has the distinction of carrying on the local tradition of ringing out the “pigbell” at 8pm each evening to let the locals know they can release their animals into the street!  What is consistent though, is the welcome provided by the hardworking, dedicated volunteers at these, and all of the churches which the CCT cares for.”

The Minister was interested to hear of the community's involvement in projects at both churches and was particularly struck by the interesting fact that the revolutionary Thomas Paine was married in St Peter's church in 1759.