An appeal has been launched for the renovation of Monken Hadley's historic church house which will involve reconstructing and modernising the interior so that it can be used for a wider range of community events.
Repairs are urgently needed: new foundations are required to prevent further subsidence; the roof must be replaced; and crumbling brickwork has to be repaired and restored.
Plans for modernising the interior of the building – which is situated in the garden adjoining the Monken Hadley parish church of St Mary the Virgin – include converting the existing large hall into two floors to create more space for events and meetings.
Restoring and updating Church House – at an estimated cost of £775,000 – is considered the only realistic option as the building is part of the heritage of the Monken Hadley conservation area.
So far £275,000 has been raised since the launch of an appeal in 2019 – and the challenge is to raise another £500,000 over the next two years.
Inevitably given the vast scale of the necessary expenditure there have been differing views within both the church community and the wider locality.
Over the last two decades various plans have been mooted, either for restoring or replacing Church House, and now it is the turn of the Reverend Dr Thomas Renz, rector for the last ten years, to help accomplish the task.
“My two predecessors struggled with this challenge,” said Dr Renz.
“One of them favoured restoration but the other wanted to tear the hall down and start again with a new building, so our team of volunteers accept that financing renovation is a daunting task.”
“We do have a responsibility to respect our heritage and with a two-hundred-year-old historic building in a conservation area realistically we think we have no other alternative but to ensure we give it another lease of life.
“Obviously there is concern about the sums involved but we are determined to use this opportunity to provide the community with a much-needed venue capable of holding a range of events where we can offer modern facilities and disabled access.”
Numerous changes and alterations have been made to Church House over the years. At some point the upper floor was removed and the ceiling height increased.
Internal pillars were installed to support the structure – just one of the many issues which Dr Renz says will have to be sorted out during the restoration.
Church House has had various uses in the past, originally perhaps as a home for single women, and later stables, before being used as a hall for church and community use.
“So many local people have fond memories of Church House, of going there as small children, perhaps with Monken Hadley school or the Guides or Rangers.”
There is a lack of affordable, flexible community space in Monken Hadley and a wide group of community groups and charities have promised their support for the project.
The Bull Players would like to use the hall for rehearsals and workshops if there was disabled access and improved facilities, a view shared by the new Hadley Art Group and other interested potential users including Monken Hadley Primary School which could use the building for training and parent support groups.
Planning approval for the changes to the building was granted a year ago and the church has another two years to go before the permission expires.
To help generate funds, there is the option of becoming a named patron of the restored hall, perhaps by naming a step to the new first floor (£2,000); naming a window (£5,000); naming a first-floor meeting room (£20,000); or naming the main function room (£80,000).