St Mary’s Church in Brecon is on schedule to reopen this summer after an “incredible” fundraising effort from the local community.
The town centre church is undergoing major repairs to part of its roof, and the work will also include improved disabled access. The re-opening will also see the return of the café with children’s play area and space for local groups and exhibitions.
Parish priest Father Steven Griffith said: “About four years ago we had a structural survey done of the church by our architect Bonnie Kitchen and she found, along with the structural engineer, that the valley between one of our three roofs had been attacked by death watch beetle, dry rot and wet rot. Effectively that valley needed completely replacing and various other parts of that roof needed fixing.
“We worked up a project to carry out that work, and applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund. The first two applications were unsuccessful but on the third attempt we were given a grant of £95,000 which was about a third of the projected costs of the project.
“As part of getting the grant, we also putting in place improved disabled access, which will be a new ramp and automatic doors on the south entrance of the church, and we’re also going to improve our heritage story with various boards and leaflets around the church.”
The church has also been given grants by Cadw, Brecon Beacons National Park and other smaller bodies.
In 2015 an appeal fund was also set up to help with the cost of the work. Its target was £50,000 but, within 12 months, it had exceeded that.
“I was very surprised we raised that amount so quickly,” Fr Steven said. “The giving has been incredible. All this has been led by the congregation, it’s very much been a church community activity. It’s been everybody together working hard to do it.”
Work was scheduled to begin last September but tenders for the work came in higher than anticipated so some of the work had to be scaled back. When the new tenders came in they were still higher than expected, so the church has had to use reserve funds to cover the difference.
Work began in January and the church should reopen in early August.
“We’re committed to reopening the café, and getting St Mary’s back to how it was before. The work has been structural rather than cosmetic so the major difference people will notice is the disabled access.
“The play area for the children will be back as it was, and there is space for community groups to use for meetings, art exhibitions, to sell cards for charities. It is such a well-used space, in the middle of town and at the heart of the community.”