West Huntspill Church

A major project to renovate West Huntspill Church has been given a huge financial boost this week with the news that it is to receive over £670,000 of funding from the National Lottery.

Grade I Listed St Peter and All Hallows in West Huntspill has been awarded £678,200 by The National Lottery Heritage Fund for essential repairs and to become a hub for the community.

Plans for the church were already in development before the pandemic began, but were reshaped to put the church at the heart of addressing the impacts on the community and surrounding areas.

In 2019, we reported here the church had been granted round one development funding of £97,100 by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, allowing it to progress its plans. Detailed proposals were then submitted for this second round of funding.

The National Lottery funded project particularly aims to reach those who are elderly, disadvantaged or isolated and children and young people. Consultation found there has been a rise in local isolation, mental health issues, digital poverty and a decreased sense of community connectivity.

The West Huntspill plans include:

• Creating a talking café with IT support at the church to help reduce isolation and address digital skills gaps which are making people less connected
• Installing an honesty café with locally sourced products and toilet and kitchen facilities to enable groups to use the church
• Running community exhibitions and a range of activities
• Introducing Scout achievement badges and resources for school

The project will also carry out essential repairs to the at-risk Grade I Listed church, particularly to the stonework and roof of the tower.

David Lemon, Project Coordinator at St Peter and All Hallows, says: “Without this funding from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, it would not be possible to either maintain this beautiful historic building or adapt it for today’s community needs.”

“During the eight hundred years, that a Church has stood on this site it has continually developed and changed to meet the changing needs of that community, and this is another step on that journey.”

“In two recent village surveys it was very evident that the community needed a centre or hub to reduce isolation and grow a united community, which this carefully designed reordering of the west end of the Church will do.”

Stuart McLeod, Director London & South at The National Lottery Heritage Fund, adds: “Heritage has an essential role to play in making communities a better place to live and in supporting personal wellbeing, so we are delighted to support this project which aims to put historic St Peter and All Hallows at the heart of making a positive change for people impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.”

Ann Gunnell-Parker, resident of West Huntspill and Parish Councillor, said: “I was pleased to attend a meeting a St Peter and All Hallows Church on Saturday 11th December to gain an understanding of the plans for the development of a community hub in the church. During the meeting I was amazed by the huge amount of work that has already gone into this project and by the extent of the planned works.”

“These works include the removal of the pews to the west of the entrance which will allow space for community events and enable the current “kitchen” area to be moved to the main body of the church to form a community cafe. The current kitchen area will become a storage area and much needed toilets will be installed.”

“Toilets will facilitate so many activities including scout group sleep overs and attracting Coast Path walkers to the community cafe. Indeed, there were so many ideas for events ready to be activated once the work is complete and most of them are dependent upon toilet facilities being available. I look forward to seeing how the funding and the work progresses.”

Steve Davis, Headmaster at West Huntspill School, said: “Everyone at West Huntspill Primary School (part of The Priory Learning Trust) were delighted to hear that The National Lottery Heritage Fund grant application has been successful.”

“This will be fantastic for the whole community and have such a positive impact on how the school can build further links with our local church. The new toilets will mean the children can now use the church and its grounds for fieldwork and historical exploration as well as at special festivals and celebrations throughout the year.”

History of West Huntspill church

St Peter and All Hallows is known as one of the most historic churches in Somerset, and is known as ‘The Cathedral of the Levels’.  A Christian community is believed to have existed at Huntspill since AD 796 when, during the reign of the Saxon King Offa, the Manor and land at Huntspill was given to Glastonbury Abbey. Huntspill is listed in the Domesday Book of 1086 as Honspil.

There has been a church on this site since 1194. It was rebuilt in the 1400’s and restored to its former glory after a fire in 1878. Today, the pillars are still a unique red/orange colour as a result of the fire.

The church features distinctive architectural details include cinque-foil cusped perpendicular windows, stone carved gargoyles and embattlements. The Tower is believed to have been built in the 15th Century.

Within the village, the church is the only Grade I Listed building and the church and its tower is key to the identity of the village.


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