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ChurchCare's Virtuous Circles project has received initial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Working closely with the Diocese of Hereford and architects Feilden Clegg Bradley the  project aims to develop a sustainable new model for isolated rural places of worship as self-catering accommodation.

Development funding of £49,700 has been awarded to help the partnership progress their plans to apply for a full grant at a later date.

The project aims to restore the currently closed Victorian church of St Michael’s in Dulas and provide an innovative new use which will see it retained for future generations. A sympathetic and energy efficient reversible timber structure designed to provide self-catering holiday accommodation will be inserted within the body of the Church while retaining an open east end as a space for contemplation and prayer. Rental income from the letting will then fed back into the conservation of the building fabric creating a virtuous circle and ensuring that the church can remain open. Part of the project will be proposing how the model could be scaled up and used elsewhere. Local groups will be involved throughout the project to bring this beautiful church back to life and open it up to a wide range of visitors.

Nearly two-thirds of Church of England churches are in rural areas and while many continue to thrive and play an active role at the centre of a village community. Some buildings have been left underused as a result of changing populations and declining congregations. These sites have often been the centre of worship for centuries and were once integral to the local community. Now the seventh, eighth or even twelfth church of a group, the buildings are either rarely used, in the process of closure or already closed for worship. This project is intended to pave the way for a new model for retaining and opening up these important heritage assets.

Ruth Knight of the Cathedral and Church Buildings Division said “We’re delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given us this support. As well as providing a sustainable future for St Michael’s we hope that once completed this unique project will inspire other innovative approaches to under used places of worship.

Reyahn King, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund West Midlands, said: “This project aims to create a template for giving underused church buildings, especially in isolated rural locations, a sustainable future that will help to conserve their heritage. We look forward to receiving the detailed proposals in due course.”


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