Two Connor churches are to receive a share in a £610,917 funding payout from the National Churches Trust.
A £14,960 grant has awarded to fund urgent repairs to fix cracking in the walls of St Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast, while a £10,000 grant will update facilities at St Simon’s Parish Church in Donegall Road, Belfast.
Funding for the grant comes from the Department for Communities Historic Environment Division’s Covid-19 Culture, Languages, Arts and Heritage Support Programme.
Belfast Cathedral (St Anne’s) dates from 1899, and this grant will support repairs to 23 structural cracks in the building.
The Very Rev Stephen Forde, Dean of Belfast said Belfast Cathedral had withstood many challenges over the decades.
“Eighty years ago, the Blitz of 1941 destroyed many of the surrounding buildings, but St Anne’s Cathedral survived. Through the 40 years of the Northern Ireland Troubles multiple bomb blasts shook the city centre, but the cathedral remained a beacon of hope,” the Dean said.
“In addition to the years of conflict, a shifting water table has impacted on the cathedral’s 50 foot timber piles. All of these factors have placed stresses and strains on the stone structure of the cathedral, producing cracks in walls and arches. In addition, 100 years of industrial pollution has eroded some of the best loved features of the cathedral’s limestone facades.”
Dean Forde said that dealing with both the structural challenges and the deterioration of the stonework at the cathedral would be ‘challenging’ in normal times, adding that with the added impact of the Covid Pandemic on cathedral finances, the grant from the National Churches Trust has been a ‘lifeline’ for the cathedral.
“While the cathedral was closed to public worship due to Covid restrictions, stone masons have been able to take advantage of the empty building to repair cracked arches, and to restore eroded stonework,” he explained.
“As Dean, I am deeply appreciative for this timely support from the National Churches Trust, which has allowed these essential repairs to be carried out. This grant has been a real encouragement to all involved with the life of Belfast Cathedral, as we have journeyed through these most challenging of times.”
St Simon’s, a double-height gabled red brick Gothic-revival style church, dates from 1923-1930.
In recent times, members of the congregation, along with groups of younger people, were involved in photographic, oral and video recording of the history and place of Red Brick Buildings across Belfast’s mainly working-class areas. The final programme was premiered in St Simon’s Church grounds, highlighting the building’s physical and community place within the Red Brick Project.
The £10,000 grant from the National Churches Trust will help fund the installation of a kitchen and toilet and reordering of the church’s interior.
Rev Raymond Moore, priest-in-charge of St Simon’s, said: “On behalf of all our parishioners, I am delighted to acknowledge our sincere gratitude to the National Churches Trust for this funding.
“We are now able to undertake modernisation of a part of the church while retaining its traditional architecture and style which will encourage more and more of our local community to join with us in worship.”
Communities Minister Deirdre Hargey said the funding would help catalyse renewal activity and animate communities affected by Covid-19 by working with them to tackle the issues faced by historic church buildings which at the heart of local communities.
“Churches have played a critical role in the Covid-19 response and it is fitting that they now become part of our renewal through increased focus on conservation- led repair of heritage fabric, together with provision of new facilities to help ensure their continued use into the future,” Ms Hargey said.
Broadcaster and journalist Huw Edwards, Vice President of The National Churches Trust, said a total of 67 churches and chapels in England, Wales Scotland and Northern Ireland will benefit from the latest grants.
This is the first round of grants made by the National Churches Trust in 2021. Last year the Trust has awarded, or recommended on behalf of other funders, 260 grants amounting to £1.7 million.