Wednesday, 16 June 2021

More room for church meetings

ST MARY’S church has moved a step closer to a new extension which will provide much-needed meeting space.

ST MARY’S church has moved a step closer to a new extension which will provide much-needed meeting space.

Currently, the church is forced to hold meetings for local groups and fellowships, including the children’s Sunday school, either off site or at the back of the church.

The Wargrave Parochial Church Council has been looking to extend the building since 2003, but English Heritage objected to their original proposal at a meeting in June. However, the church has now reached an agreement on a proposed timber extension on the north-facing wall of the church.

The extension will contain two meeting halls, toilets and a cafeteria, and will provide space for church meetings to take place on the site.

It will run parallel to the existing building, with access directly into the parish offices and through the North Door via a small courtyard.

Peter Mayes, St Mary’s church warden, said: “The extension will provide meeting rooms for our various groups and fellowships. If you go off site as they do now, it can take 10 minutes to get there and back, and you spend half of the meeting time travelling.

“We had difficulties in agreeing a site with English Heritage that was acceptable to all. The good news is that our latest proposal has now been agreed in principle with the English Heritage regional inspector. We argued strongly for a covered passage to link up with the north porch but the inspector was concerned about retaining the open aspect of the north porch which he considered an essential feature of the 1916 reconstruction. We had to accept a compromise.

“The architect is finalising details of the design with the inspector prior to discussion with the Wokingham Borough Council conservation officer. This will open the way for preparation of a planning application and determining the building cost.”

The church in Station Road dates back to Tudor times, but was burnt down by suffragettes in 1914 and rebuilt two years later. The tower is the only remaining structure from before the fire, and dates back to 1635.

The proposed extension is the second phase of a renovation project. So far, pews inside the church have been removed and a new heating system has been installed. There are also plans to move the font and convert the bell tower into a créche area.

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