A project to find a new sustainable use for Grade II* listed St John the Evangelist in Lancaster is to benefit from an anonymous £20,000 donation.
The church was declared redundant in 1981 and vested in the Churches Conservation Trust in 1983. It then closed to the public in 2015, when Storm Desmond caused flooding in the city centre. Subsequent problems have included both wet and dry rot.
A successful fundraising campaign – Stop the Rot – tackled the most urgent of these issues. Nonetheless, further investment is required to fully repair and conserve the church and to provide the facilities – such as WCs, kitchen, disabled access – that would enable it to be used more effectively.
Earlier this year, the CCT began working with the Lancaster & District Chamber of Commerce to find a sustainable new use for St John’s. Market research identified the need for high-quality co-working and event spaces to support small and medium-sized enterprises in Lancaster, helping local people to grow their businesses and the city centre to flourish.
With funding from the Architectural Heritage Fund, Buttress was commissioned to explore how St John’s might be sensitively converted for use as a co-working and event space. The Buttress proposals are for a ‘marketplace’ in the nave at St John’s – adapting the church’s historic box pews to create individual desk spaces and space for events and networking with further meeting and work spaces provided in the upper galleries. A new coffee shop and churchyard garden would be open to members of the public. An extension in the north-eastern corner of the churchyard would provide additional facilities including WCs and a lift.
The surprise donation of £20,000 will support the development of the project’s next stage, which includes the completion of a full business plan, a survey of the condition of the building, an assessment of the full costs of repair, exploration of funding opportunities, and examining ways in which the regenerated building might mitigate the effects of climate change and achieve net-zero. This will allow CCT to unlock support pledged by Lancaster City Council, who have offered to fund 20% of the capital costs (up to £500,000) towards conservation repair work providing a sustainable new use for the building can be found.
Judith Patrick, CCT Head of North Region said: “This generous donation was a huge surprise to the project team and a real boost for CCT. Along with support from Lancaster City Council and the Architectural Heritage Fund, it will allow us to really move the project forward and to secure a sustainable future for St John’s. Not only that, it also demonstrates the care and interest people have for this wonderful building, and will help us to ensure that it is at the heart of city centre life once more”