Church spire to stand tall again after trust boosts repair funds
A missing church landmark in the Holywood skyline will be repaired as part of a £300,000 refurbishment project.
Over several weeks, residents have noticed that the spire from the grade B+ listed Church of St Philip and St James in the Co Down town has been removed.
The temporary scaffolding in its place has been erected while damaged stonework on the structure is being replaced.
Situated on Church Road, the extensive repair work on the Church of Ireland building was partly funded through a £14,000 grant by the National Churches Trust.
Veteran BBC broadcaster Huw Edwards, the vice president of the National Churches Trust, said he is "delighted" the grant is helping to fund the repairs, adding: "The work on the tower and spire repairs will help secure the future of a historic building."
Speaking about the refurbishment work taking place on the mid-19th century building, Canon Gareth Harron said: "Being entrusted with a beautiful church building in which to gather for worship is a real blessing, but it comes with significant responsibility."
The challenging repair work, which started in June and is scheduled to finish in December, was "years in the making", according to Canon Harron.
"There are a lot of practical challenges, in terms of accessing the ground, but we have been able to keep any disruption to a minimum thankfully," he added.
"Hopefully in the next couple of weeks the spire will be back up. We want to get it back up again before the winter months."
Joking that he has "had a few comments from local neighbours" about the spire being missing and the green tarpaulin surrounding it, Canon Harron added: "It's one of those things, people notice it more now that it's not there."
Despite the grant from the National Churches Trust, much of the rest of the funding had to be covered by the church itself, with Canon Harron admitting that it "has eaten into our reserves hugely".
St Philip and St James have another "huge project" upcoming in the future, with work to repair the church's historic organ also in the planning stage.
Looking to the future, Canon Harron added: "We hope that this vital work will help sustain the fabric of the building as we prayerfully hope God will bless the church, his people."
A celebratory dinner marking the church's 175th anniversary is to be held on the evening of Friday, October 11. Tickets for the event are currently available from the parish office.