Church set to launch technicolour fundraising appeal for new extension

Joseph and his coat at St Margaret's Church in West Hoathly SUS-160804-110354001

Joseph and his coat at St Margaret's Church in West Hoathly SUS-160804-110354001

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Tomorrow (Saturday April 9) sees the launch of a fundraising appeal for an exciting new extension for the historic Grade I listed church of St Margaret’s in West Hoathly.

St Margaret’s, which dates back to 1090 and recently featured in Penelope Keith’s ‘Hidden Villages’ programme, is pleased to present the exciting new plans, which include provision for a new meeting area, servery and two toilets - all within the existing footprint of the vestry.

The plans, drawn up by Robin Nugent Architects, include replacing the existing vestry, added in 1898, with a two-storey extension, carefully designed in sympathy with the existing 11th century building and using matching stonework for the outer walls.

The addition of these much-needed facilities will enable the church to be used more frequently for events embracing the whole community as it has done over the centuries.

The first such community event to take place in the church after the fundraising launch will be a ‘from scratch’ performance of ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat’. Arranged by Stephen Curtis, the deputy head teacher of West Hoathly School, the community enterprise is a one-day rehearsal and performance that will showcase drama and songs from the musical. Anyone and everyone in the local area are invited to come along and sing, with a band rehearsing together at 7pm the night before on Friday April 15.

The ‘Sing In’, which Mr Curtis admits may attract 5 or 105 participants, begins at 10am on Saturday April 16 with the final performance at 7pm on the Saturday.

Says Stephen Curtis: “The emphasis is on enjoyment - people can sing as much or as little as they want. If somebody wishes to sing one of the numbers as a solo, then we shall do this, and this might mean that we sing some of the songs more than once in the concert.”

For the new extension, the church has had to gain approval from many different bodies, including Historic England (formerly English Heritage), the Church Building Council, the Victorian Society and the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings. Says Rt Reverend Dr Martin Warner, the Bishop of Chichester about the community’s proposal for the extension: ‘It is a great sign of the vitality of your faith that in the 21st century you are building on the Christian witness of the 11th century. May this continuity of faith be a sign that even in our own day there are men women and children who joyfully and boldly seek to know, love, follow Jesus.’

All of the monies raised will be transferred into a separate Building Fund account for this project, and the Parish Council is aiming to raise £290,000 with £40,000 already pledged from the Parochial Church Council and, a further £40,000 of reclaimed VAT.

As a spokesperson for the working party says, ‘With faith, hope and charity, we intend to raise the funds to start building this year to ensure the church’s place in the heart of the community for generations to come.’

Report and picture contributed by Cathy Merry.