Medieval Stevenage church reopens after £1million renovation unearths archaeological trove
PUBLISHED: 10:52 15 September 2020 | UPDATED: 13:09 15 September 2020
A Grade I listed church - the oldest building in Stevenage - has officially reopened following a £1million renovation which took more than a year to complete.
The works at Rectory Lane’s St Nicholas Church, which has a 900-year-old tower and 14th century spire, included a new stone floor with underfloor heating, upgraded lighting, a meeting room for children and a more flexible layout.
The church closed in June last year and the congregation instead met at The Leys School in Stevenage for Sunday services.
The works were due to finish in February, but archaeological finds – including four crypts and hundreds of bones – and the COVID-19 pandemic caused significant delays.
In June, rector at the church, Reverend Dave Brown, also announced a £30,000 shortfall in the £1,050,000 needed to pay for the renovation, but parishioners plugged the funding gap and the Right Reverend Michael Beasley, Bishop of Hertford, officially reopened the church on Saturday.
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A bequest from local man Bob Hawkes covered £688,000 of the total cost, with grants and other donations also contributing.
Reverend Brown said: “Our aim was to equip the building for work and mission for the next 100 years while enhancing its beauty, history and heritage.
“The church family was growing, so we needed more seating space for our regular Sunday congregation. Our children’s groups were crammed in unsuitable areas and needed better facilities, and we also needed a créche.
“The floor was breaking up and becoming unsafe, and the lighting was poor, making the church dull and dreary.
“We also wanted the flexibility to use the building to host more community events.
“We are incredibly grateful to all those who have supported this project financially, however big or small their donation, and we are absolutely delighted with the results.”
COVID-19 safety measures mean the church is operating at less than a third capacity, with those at services social distancing and sitting in household bubbles. They must also wear face coverings and there is no congregational singing. To attend a service, a booking form is posted each week on St Nicholas Church’s Facebook page, where the service is also live streamed.
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