£37,500 lifeline for church.

Posted on 9th October 2020

The Government’s Culture Recovery Fund throws a lifeline to beautiful historic church.

Great Witley Church has been awarded £37,500 from the Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund to ensure its impressive baroque interior can continue to be enjoyed by future generations. It is one of 445 heritage organisations across the country set to receive a lifesaving financial boost from the government thanks to the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to help them through the coronavirus pandemic.

The historically significant church is the only church in the UK with such a well-preserved baroque interior and usually relies on concerts and donations from visitors to keep the church maintained properly. With the Covid restrictions, all concerts have been cancelled and the church is only able to open for four hours on Wednesdays. Even when not in use the building must be kept heated and aired to prevent any deterioration to the priceless painted windows and ceiling. The fabulous interior attracts visitors from all over the world.

Churchwarden Angela Snow said: “We were thrilled to hear that our funding application has been successful. The grant will cover the costs of maintaining the church until the end of March 2021 and will provide funds to ensure that when it is able to fully open again there will be a full concert programme and new digital displays telling the history of the church and the once grand, but now ruined, Witley Court which adjoins it.  It is absolutely vital that this precious heritage site is maintained for future generations and we are looking forward to the enhanced education facilities that we will be able to provide for visitors.”

To ensure Great Witley Church is safe for visitors, new steps have been built at the rear of the church and some of the pews have been moved so that a one-way system can be operated. The fund will also enable the church to employ a recovery manager, who will help to recruit new stewards.

Angela continued: “Many of our stewards are over 70 and therefore classed as vulnerable. We are also required to have four stewards on duty with the new regulations so it’ll make a real difference to have some new volunteers to help us.”

This vital funding is from the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage and the Heritage Stimulus Fund – funded by Government and administered at arms length by Historic England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. Both funds are part of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund which is designed to secure the future of Britain’s museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues with emergency grants and loans.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “As a nation it is essential that we preserve our heritage and celebrate and learn from our past. This massive support package will protect our shared heritage for future generations, save jobs and help us prepare for a cultural bounceback post covid.”

433 organisations will receive a share of £67 million from the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage to help with costs for operating, reopening and recovery. This includes famous heritage sites across the country, from Wentworth Woodhouse in Yorkshire to Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, Blyth Tall Ship to the Severn Valley Railway, the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincolnshire to the Piecehall in Halifax. The funds will save sites that are a source of pride for communities across the country.