Belfast Telegraph

Early Christmas present for church as £10,000 roof grant secures future

By Adrian Rutherford

A well-known Belfast place of worship has been awarded a £10,000 grant from the UK's church repair and support charity.

The money will be used to reroof May Street Presbyterian Church.

If the work is not carried out soon, the building could become unusable for the congregation within two years.

The project will allow the continued use of the building for worship and other activities.

A total of 36 churches and chapels around the UK will benefit from the latest grants from the National Churches Trust. In total the churches have been awarded £596,000.

May Street will also receive a £2,000 National Churches Trust micro-grant towards a social action project to help local people.

It was built in 1829 for the famous minister the Rev Henry Cooke.

It is a classical Georgian building with the galleried church set over a basement, and is now Grade A Listed.

A Binns organ was installed in 1914 and is still in regular use.

The church is situated in the Linen Conservation Area of Belfast, which was designated in 1992.

But in recent times it has fallen into a state of disrepair.

The felt parapet wall gutters and valleys, which were installed in the 1960s, have failed.

The church plans to scaffold the roof, remove the slated perimeter together with the felt valleys and parapet gutters, and replace this part of the roof with natural slate pitched roofing, lead valleys and lead parapet gutters.

The work is urgently required to keep water out and avoid terminal decay of roof timbers, internal plasterwork and the organ.

Once the main roof is secure there are future plans to reopen the church's basement cafe, to reroof the lecture hall with a flat roof for a creche and fitness training for the adjoining proposed office development, and to use the building for conferences.

Broadcaster Huw Edwards, who is vice-president of the National Churches Trust, welcomed yesterday's funding announcement. "I'm delighted that this Christmas the future of May Street Presbyterian Church, which does so much to help the local community, is being safeguarded by a National Churches Trust grant to fund new facilities," he said.

"This funding will help ensure that this important place of worship, situated in the Linen Conservation Area of Belfast, continues to serve local people for many years to come.

"Churches and chapels are some of the UK's best-loved buildings. But their future is not guaranteed."

Mr Edwards added: "This Christmas, when people visit a church or chapel for a carol service or even just walk past a church on the way to do the Christmas shopping, I urge them to think about how they can help ensure that churches can remain open and in good repair.

"Everyone can make a contribution to the future of the UK's church and chapel buildings. That could be by helping to clear drains and gutters to help keep churches watertight or by keeping an eye out for vandals or thieves.

"Churches and chapels may be historic buildings, but they can be part of our future too."

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