Shrewsbury's St Chad's restoration appeal

PUBLISHED: 18:09 19 May 2010 | UPDATED: 17:12 20 February 2013

Faced with a mighty task, left to right: Adrian Richards, Chairman of the Fabric Comittee; Prof. John Patrick, Chairman of the Friends of St Chad’s; Ian Somervaille, Secretary of the Friends of St Chad's; The Reverend Chris Walker, Assistant Priest at St Chad's

Faced with a mighty task, left to right: Adrian Richards, Chairman of the Fabric Comittee; Prof. John Patrick, Chairman of the Friends of St Chad’s; Ian Somervaille, Secretary of the Friends of St Chad's; The Reverend Chris Walker, Assistant Priest at St Chad's

Shrewsbury's St Chad's, famed for its architecture and musical excellence, is in need of £1.6million of repairs. Claire McNamee looks at the fundraising effort launched to safeguard the landmark building

A towering target

Shrewsburys St Chads, famed for its architecture and musical excellence, is in need of 1.6million of repairs. Claire McNamee looks at the fundraising effort launched to safeguard the landmark building

Overlooking Shrewsburys picturesque Quarry Park, sits St Chads Church, a beautiful Georgian building, with a distinct circular nave the only of its kind in England and high tower.

After the original church collapsed in 1788 it was replaced on this new site in 1792. Scottish architect George Steuart had submitted several designs and, although a rectangular one was preferred by the council, due to an error, a previously rejected circular plan was completed instead. With its blend of Ionic, Doric and Corinthian interior styles, and comprising a central hall with a sweeping double staircase to the gallery, the building feels more like a country house than a church.

In 2009 it had the honour of being made a member of the elite Greater Churches Group with only approximately 30 churches in England and which provides support and advice to churches that have a cathedral-like structure, but only parish resources to support them.

St Chads, whose mission statement is Open doors, open hearts, open minds has a prestigious musical tradition, with a notable history of well-known organists and directors of music in residence. Concerts and recitals are held throughout the summer season and last month saw the second year of the St Chads Music Festival, which is becoming a town tradition.
With Shrewsbury being the birthplace of Charles Darwin, St Chads can also claim to be the church where he was baptised, and each year becomes fully involved in hosting many of the events of the four-week Darwin Festival.

The Shrewsbury church was also the location for parts of filming of the 1984 film of A Christmas Carol and its many visitors can view the gravestone of Ebenezer Scrooge, which remains in the cemetery.

Now this historic Grade I listed building is in need of repair. The outer covering of the tower, just below the top cupola and some 100 feet above the ground contains several pieces of five-ton Grinshill stone. Due to general wear and tear over the years the iron bands that hold these blocks in place are eroding, causing them to become loose and they must be reattached to the underlying brickwork.

The cost of this essential restoration work is a vast 1.6 million. Aside from a much-welcomed contribution of 300,000 from English Heritage, it is down to the church to come up with the rest, and with a congregation of 280 to 300 people, this is no mean feat.

One of those heading the campaign for the church is Chairman of the Friends of St Chads, Professor John Patrick, who has been busy rallying support for the cause. Fundraising has so far included a series of historical lectures on subjects such as the Battle of Waterloo, and the latest, in April, entitled The Death of Nelson, given by internationally acknowledged military historian, Mick Crumplin.

At the end of the most recent AGM, the Friends of St Chads had the honour of hearing a talk given by retired teacher, Laurence Le Quesne of Shrewsbury School whose pupils included founding members of the satirical magazine Private Eye: Willy Rushton, Richard Ingrams, Christopher Booker and Paul Foot. Another famous pupil of his was Monty Python and Round the World star, Michael Palin certainly a few interesting stories to tell.

The next major fundraiser will be on August 13 and 14 at Shrewsbury Flower Show which is held in the parkland surrounding the church. The event is preceded with a free concert in the church and ends with a spectacular firework display in the grounds.

Friends volunteers wil operate the St Chads Tearooms, which last year raised more than 2,600, and with an estimated 200,000 visitors they hope for similar success this year.

However, with approximately 14,000 raised so far towards their huge target, there is still a long way to go.

For further information on fundraising events or to make a donation, visit the churchs website www.stchadschurchshrewsbury.com or contact Professor John Patrick at St Chad's Church, St Chad's Terrace, Shrewsbury, SY1 1JX. Tel: 01743 249303.

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