Wednesday, 10 August 2022

Finally, work starts on new £400,000 church annexe

WORK on a new £400,000 annexe at St Mary’s Church in Wargrave will start next week.

The Church of England has granted permission for the extension to the church in Station Road after considering the effect on the churchyard, where a yew tree will have to be removed and more than 50 gravestones relocated.

The project had already been given planning permission by Wokingham Borough Council and the design approved by English Heritage.

The church had originally hoped to start building work last year but the project was delayed as it was obliged to trace the families of the four people buried in this area since 1900, three dating from the Twenties and one from 1985.

The remaining headstones are all pre-1900, so the church didn’t have to find the descendants.  The Oxford diocese has now agreed to the work, with a copy of the necessary faculty document being delivered to architect Nick Rule on Monday.

The yew tree will be felled next week before the headstones are removed and relaid, the ground is levelled and pads supporting the foundations start to be laid.

Peter Mayes, a member of the parochial church council, said: “This process will take about 10 to 12 weeks.

“We are approaching Christmas so there are lots of things we would like to do but Christmas will put a block on things.

“If the faculty had come a couple of months earlier we would have hoped to have part of the annexe up before Christmas but we’ve been waiting for six years, so we can afford to wait a few weeks longer.”

In the first phase of construction, the shell of the annexe will be built together with facilities such as a disabled toilet.

This will take until around April when the building will be available for “rudimentary” functions such as a Sunday school.

The second phase will be to install the interior, which will take another three or four months and relies on funding being available.

The annexe will be called the St Mary’s Church Centre and will contain two meeting rooms, a café and toilets as well as access to the church via the north porch.

It will provide a meeting place for community groups such as Mill Green Women’s Institute, which currently uses the nearby Hannen Room.

The annexe is the latest stage of the 21st Century Project to modernise the church and make it more appealing and useful to the community.

More than £250,000 has so far been raised, leaving another £150,000 to be found for interior work.

The church relaunched its project appeal last year and has since raised more than £70,000. Applications have also been made to various trust funds.

The appeal will receive £10 from the sale of each copy of Lost and Found in the Pulpit, the memoirs of former Wargrave vicar Rev John Ratings, who died in December 2014.

Last month, a television donated by a parishioner was auctioned to raise money and was won by churchwarden Christine Walker. A doll’s house has now also been offered for auction too.

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