Lancaster church leads the way for next generation of heritage craftspeople
The Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) are thrilled to announce that Historic England have awarded the Church of St John the Evangelist, Lancaster, a Heritage at Risk grant of £496k. This funding will be used towards a programme of urgent repair works and delivery of a Summer School heritage building skills training programme for around 20 traditional skills apprentices from across the north of England in 2024. This project has also been made possible through 25% match funding provided by a generous anonymous donation, a thoughtful legacy gift in left in the will of a generous individual and CCT reserves.
The Grade II* Georgian Church of St John’s is in the heart of Lancaster’s High Street Heritage Action Zone and Lancaster Conservation Area. Vested in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust (the national charity saving historic churches at risk) in 1983, the church was once used for concerts, community events and home to a fair-trade café. However, this came to an end in 2015 following severe flooding during Storm Desmond, which led to deterioration in the condition of the building including dry and wet rot outbreaks.
Over the last eight years, CCT has invested around a quarter of a million pounds in remedial and emergency works at the church, which has allowed for the church to be occasionally used once again as a community space, including this January as part of the Light Up Lancaster Art Installation. However, there has been an increasingly clear need for urgent repairs to the roof, tower, parapets and gutters to prevent further damage and potential loss of the beautifully crafted interior.
Critically, this grant will also offer a once in a lifetime opportunity for around twenty young apprentices at Historic England’s Heritage Building Skills Summer School in 2024. Over five weeks, trainees will assist with repairs to the roof and tower, learning and developing traditional skills from master craftspeople, helping to tackle the critical shortage in essential skills needed to rescue historic buildings across the country.
Over the last ten years research within the heritage sector has revealed a growing shortage of specialist skills in the building repair and conservation sector. The 2023 Red List produced by the Heritage Crafts organisation includes flint knapping, gauged brickwork, stained glass making and slating as ‘endangered’ crafts in the UK. St John’s will play a vital role in developing the next generation of traditionally trained craftspeople in masonry, roofing and lead, iron and timber work.
The funding, meanwhile, will allow use of the Church to continue while CCT, which is also benefitting from generous support from the National Lottery and others, develops plans for a long-term viable use that would allow the Church to be once again at the heart of the community for years to come.
Catherine Dewar, Historic England’s North West Regional Director, said:
“St John’s is a focal point for Lancaster’s High Street Heritage Action Zone and our grant will help to secure vital repairs needed to protect it for the immediate future. The project will also provide a brilliant opportunity for our heritage building skills apprentices and trainees to develop their expertise, which is needed for so many well-loved buildings across the country. The plans to use the building for a wide range of business and community purposes demonstrates how historic places can be reinvented with care and imagination.”
Elanor Johnson, Regeneration Officer at Churches Conservation Trust commented:
“Not only is the support provided by Historic England to help us tackle the most urgent repair work at St John’s vital in securing the future of this wonderful building, it will also make a real difference to the future of the trainees and apprentices involved, helping them to develop skills to build their own careers and in turn helping CCT to care for historic churches for generations to come.”
Previous News about Church of St John the Evangelist in Lancaster
23 January 2023
The winter months continue to overwhelm St John’s, with the church suffering a burst pipe during the cold weather in December leading to flooding and water damage in the vestry and eastern end of the building.
14 December 2022
CCT has been awarded a grant of £393,507 to work with Lancaster and District Chamber of Commerce to open a co-working space in the redundant St John’s Church in Lancaster.
24 November 2022
Earlier this month, St John the Evangelist Church, Lancaster, was taken over by contemporary artist Anne Bennett, with her light installation Butterfly Dream: Making the Invisible Visible.
25 March 2022
St John the Evangelist Church opened its doors to welcome the people of Lancaster for a Spring Clean recently. The event was part of a community consultation exploring options to reopen the church back into the heart of the community. The event was well attended by locals, members of Lancaster and District Chamber of Commerce, Lancaster and District Heritage Group and Lancaster City Council.
11 October 2021
Georgian city church wins £17,355 of new funding
06 May 2021
St John the Evangelist Church, Lancaster has received £51,875 for vital repairs to windows and doors thanks to grant funding from the government’s £1.57 billion Cultural Recovery Fund.
09 September 2021
Anonymous donor gives £20,000 towards our project to find a new use for the Church of St John the Evangelist in Lancaster.
10 December 2015
Flooding devastates city centre church