Tuesday, 17 September 2019

New £400,000 church centre finally opens to public

New £400,000 church centre finally opens to public

A NEW annexe at St Mary’s Church in Wargrave has opened to the public.

The St Mary’s Church Centre took about a year to build and cost £400,000.

There will be an official opening ceremony later this year but it is already available for use by church and community groups.

The centre, which is the latest stage of the £600,000 21st Century Project to modernise the church, has a main space for groups to use as well as a kitchen and toilets. Large windows in the main hall look out on to the churchyard.

Tables and chairs are kept in an adjacent room and a sliding partition will be installed to allow two groups to use the hall at once.

Parishioners were given a first look at the annexe at an informal opening following the main church service on Sunday, February 17. Lay minister Andy Ferguson said: “About 100 people came in. There was a really positive reaction and 99 per cent of the comments were that they were really happy with it. We are absolutely delighted with it. It’s good to get to the end of the road. We’ve had a lot of hiccups along the way, primarily to do with archeology and planning. It’s more than 20 years since we first put in an application.”

The annexe was approved by the Oxford diocese, English Heritage and Wokingham Borough Council in 2016. Building work began in January last year after the money had been raised but was delayed on the first day when human bones believed to date from the Middle Ages were discovered underground in the churchyard where the annexe was due to be built.

Work had to be halted as about 90 skeletons were exhumed, cleaned and catalogued before being reinterred elsewhere in the churchyard.

Workmen also had to deal with difficult weather conditions in both the winter and summer.

Exterior work will now be carried out, including planting around the northern entrance to the church.

The annexe will be used by community groups such as Mill Green Women’s Institute, which currently uses the nearby Hannen Room, and for large church functions.

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