Heritage Lottery restoration grant will bring Hucknall church history to life

A provisional sum of £133,000 has been granted to historic St Mary Magdalene in Hucknall, Nottinghamshire – the church closely associated with Lord Byron, Composer Eric Coates and Victorian stained glass artist, Charles Eamer Kempe.

Initial support in the form of a ‘first-round pass’ from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) is for the restoration of the medieval building, and the project aims to renovate or replace worn sandstone block of the exterior, upgrade the visitors centre inside the church and renew displays of church and local heritage, as well as carry out essential conservation work to the exterior of the church and to improve access and facilities for visitors.

Development funding of £17,700 has also been awarded to help the church to progress their plans to apply for the full grant early in 2014.

St Mary Magdalene, in the centre of the town, is the burial place of the poet Lord Byron and the only building that could display the different strands of church and local history. This project will bring together the Newstead Abbey Byron Society, Eric Coates Society and local History and Heritage groups to develop high quality displays covering a broad range of topics which would rotate every few months in order to encourage repeat visits. It will provide an opportunity to support educational activities with local schools and train local volunteers in data presentation.

St Mary Magdalene church stands on the site of a past Saxon church. The church tower was built in stages between the 12th and 14th centuries and the porch, built in 1320, housed the school, the forerunner of the National School movement. The church contains one of the largest collections of Kempe stained glass windows in the country and is a focal point for the local community for concerts and festivals.

“Although the church has a rich and varied heritage, both cultural and historical, much of this is poorly displayed and in disparate locations. There is a real need to tell the story of Lord Byron and his family, Eric Coates, Ben Caunt, champion boxer of England, and Charles Eamer Kempe the Victorian stained glass artist, in a better, more engaging way. Many of these figures are internationally renowned yet they are poorly presented either by City or County Council. Local groups will work with us to incorporate new material and use modern technology to engage with visitors,” said David Hosking, Churchwarden of St Mary Magdalene.

 Archdeacon of Newark, David Picken commented: “We’re delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund has given St Mary Magdalene this support. It is exciting that this project will preserve the fabric of this beautiful building for future generations to worship in. At the same time making its heritage more accessible and interesting to the local community.”

Vanessa Harbar, Head of HLF East Midlands, said; “There is a place of worship in almost every ward, village and town across the East Midlands, providing a very powerful visual connection with our past. Not only will our awards secure the immediate future of these particular buildings, it will also empower congregations to adapt them, where necessary, so they can be enjoyed more widely throughout the community and in turn enable them be more sustainable for the future.”