Iconic Preston church launches urgent £3.5m fund-raising appeal

An iconic Preston church has launched a major appeal to raise £3.5m for its urgent restoration project.

By David Nowell
Monday, 15th June 2020, 12:30 pm
Canon Gwenael Cristofoli of St Walburge's Church. A leaking roof is just one of the urgent repair jobs that need to be done
Canon Gwenael Cristofoli of St Walburge's Church. A leaking roof is just one of the urgent repair jobs that need to be done

St Walburge’s is one of the most important Catholic churches in the country and is famous for having the tallest spire of any parish church in Britain.

It is a Grade I listed building and is currently under the care of the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest.

But it is leaking and in need of urgent repairs , say church leaders.

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St Walburge's Church

The Rector, Canon Gwenael Cristofoli, said £3.5m was an ambitious goal, but achievable if everyone worked together

He said that gaining funding via traditional grants may be difficult in the current financial climate, so the long-planned appeal had now been launched.

He said: “It will certainly be a huge challenge but we are in urgent need.

“We need to get on with the campaign, which we have been working on for a long time.

Canon Gwenael Cristofoli of St Walburge's Church. A leaking roof is just one of the urgent repair jobs that need to be done

"We have already been working with the community and feel that the church is not just for people who attend the church.

“It is like a symbol of Preston.”

Following a diocesan reorganisation to cope with the falling numbers of priests and church attendees, St Walburge’s faced being decommissioned and was given a seven-year stay of execution in 2008.

The Weston Street church would have closed if no other use for it had been found.

After 12 months of negotiation by Bishop Michael Campbell of Lancaster and Monsignor Gilles Wach, General Prior of the ICKSP, St Walburge’s new lease of life was secured.

The magnificent church and its subsidiary buildings have suffered decay and deterioration as a result of a long period of neglect, added to by the exceptionally severe weather in recent years.

St Walburge’s restoration project is designed to prevent the magnificent church from further deterioration and to provide the building with urgent repair, conservation treatments and improvements that are set to benefit its congregation and the wider community both today and in the future.

The church has produced a programme of works sub-divided into four phases over approximately five years:

Phase 1:

Roof repair (complete re-roofing of the whole church where a temporarily roof will be created for St Walburge’s);stained glass and stained glass protectors repair; heating system renewal ; a new extension to provide toilets for men, women and the disabled; disabled access improvement .

Phase 2:

Repair to the parish hall;repair to the Talbot Library.

Phase 3:

East- End re-ordering; new lighting system; A/V system installation.

Phase 4:

Conversion of the convent building.

The church is set to apply to grant organisations such as: Heritage Lottery Fund, Albert Gubay Foundation, All Churches Trust and Garfield Weston Foundation.

Every £1 raised will be match funding by the HLF.

In addition, to the above, St Walburge’s active parishioners are willing to assist the urgent restoration project by launching their own fundraising ideas.

St Walburge’s says it is is also fortunate in having professional event organisers amongst its congregation who will boost the church appeal.

Fund-raisers are set to organise a variety of events to help the appeal reach its total.

The include The Spire Beer fest, the Spire at Night and Award Galas which will result in generating extra revenue.

Additionally, St Walburge’s is set to activate its own online fundraising campaign, urging anyone who is interested in the spiritual life, history, ecclesial art, architecture or music of churches to join the ‘Friends’ group.

It will also be launching local appeals and seeking any available local funding

To support St Walburge’s restoration appeal, visit: www.goldengiving.com/fundraising/st-walburges-restoration