A historic church fit for the 21st Century

Over 200 of England’s listed inner city churches are at risk, but The Churches Conservation Trust is hoping that its award winning heritage regeneration project will become a national model for saving them and putting them back at the heart of their communities.

On 6th December 2014, All Souls Church in Bolton reopened to the public, revealing the results of a £4.9 million scheme which has been 10 years in the making. The regeneration project recently won an English Heritage Angel Award for The Best Rescue of Any Other Type of Historic Building or Site and the Churches Conservation Trust is confident that All Souls, with its dramatic new design, will be a leading example of how a modern community space fit for the 21st Century can be created within a once-neglected heritage building.

The project, funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) with a grant of £4.3 million, as well as additional funds from the Churches Conservation Trust, English Heritage and Bolton Council, juxtaposes the original Grade II* listed Victorian architecture with two futuristic white “pods” erected inside the church, giving the building another 100 years of life by transforming it into a state-of-the-art community building for people of all faiths and none.

The church will be open from 9am – 10pm daily, with a coffee shop on the ground floor and an at-table restaurant service during peak hours. Other floors host a mix of event and tenanted office space, with a flexible main large conference room that can also be used as a dance studio or cinema thanks to the building’s music and film license. National educational charity Beanstalk is the first tenant.

Crispin Truman, Chief Executive of The Churches Conservation Trust, said: “When an important urban church like All Souls lies unloved and in danger, we have a duty not only to save it, but also to bring it back into use at the heart of its community. This £4.9 million regeneration project is the most ambitious and innovative in the 46 year history of The Churches Conservation Trust, and I am proud that after a decade of work this beautiful Victorian building has not only been saved, but also found a sustainable purpose that will see local people coming through the doors every day.”

A typical example of the 200 urban churches featured on English Heritage’s at Risk Register, All Souls, Bolton stood neglected, closed and facing a £1.5 million repair bill. Only 2-3 people a year were visiting and it was a symbol of the decline of the Northern industrial town. But local resident and All Souls Bolton Chair, Inayat Omarji, worked with The Churches Conservation Trust to change its fortune.

 This unique scheme is the latest innovative heritage regeneration project from The Churches Conservation Trust, which seeks to find sustainable uses for historic churches. It follows on from the success of St Pauls Church, Bristol, into a circus school. Their next major project is the transformation of St Mary at the Quay, Ipswich, into a wellbeing heritage centre, due to open in early 2016.

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