A history of the spaceforall project

Yesterday is History, are you part of Tomorrow?

On Saturday 8th November 2014 there was an Open Forum in The Cornerstone arranged by the church ASK group. This was followed by a follow-up meeting, again on a Saturday in January 2015 and another in February,  with the title ‘Church Development’ – a plan for a church building for 21st century worship and community activities. In March Anne King reported back on a couple of ‘Major Projects’ conferences she had attended earlier that year and it was agreed to form a ‘Planning Group to meet in April 2015. The initial membership consisted of David Hodgson (Rector – Ex office.), Anne King (Chair), Anna Harwood (Deputy Chair), Su McArthur, Graham Leeson and John Hook. On April 29th 2015 the first meeting of CC2020 was held.

 

CC2020 started work very quickly, in May 2015 there was a meeting with Borough Councillors, we considered proposals to change the entrance to the tower, accepted a prayer for the group, consultations were formulated and carried out, there was an introduction to the congregation on Sunday 27th Sept at 11:00am and by the end of the year we had plans for a dedicated CC2020 web-site.

 

In January 2016 we reviewed a proposed brief for architects and by March teams of architects were viewing the building and assessing the scale of the project. In April we were obtaining references and shortlisting architects. The interviews were conducted by members of the Parochial Church Council (PCC) in May and the architects of Acanthus Clews from Banbury, Oxfordshire were officially appointed. John Boylan and Kathryn Pelling joined the team in July 2016 with Clive Charlton joining in September.  The architects completed a study  in  August 2016 showing four different options which would meet our brief.  November offered the congregation a number of ‘Drop-in’ consultation sessions and by December we were able to add a number of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to the CC2020 web-site.

 

January 2017 started with a couple of congregation presentation and consultation sessions. We were advised that the Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC) were setting up a sub-committee to look at our proposals and would require a formal ‘Statement of Significance’ (SoS) – what historical importance various parts of the building had, an estimate of the costs involved and the response of the consultations with the congregation. On the last day of January 2017 there was a meeting with the Wokingham Borough Conservationist. This was followed in early February by a meeting with a representative of English Heritage who would eventually be consulted on the proposed plans. Details of our proposals also had to be sent to the ‘Victorian Society’ so that they could also make their formal response. The wider consultation had begun and any objections or support from Wokingham Borough, English Heritage and the Victorian Society would all be considered by ‘The Diocesan Chancellor’ when the report of the DAC was finally sent for consideration.

In February 2017 we were pleased to have the support of a former curate, Paul Cowan, who was overseeing a major works project at his current church. He gave the sermon at the 9:30 service and was available for questions in the cornerstone after the service. In April 2017 we were producing a ‘Statement of Need’ (SoN) document along with photographic evidence. The most memorable image for me was not just the packed church at the Scouts St Georges Day, or the Town Council Remembrance service but the line of buggies all parked down the main aisle for a Wednesday Mum’s service. It was unfortunate there were no pictures of the Christmas services which could also fill the church. By September we were confirming the two ‘Statements’. In October two members attended a conference in Oxford to considered in more detail the stages of the planning process and were pleased to confirm we were heading in the right direction. By the end of the 2017 the membership of CC2020 had changed a little in particular with the addition of Pat Axford who has taken the role of Secretary and Anna who had moved away to run her own parish.

 

2018 started with a feedback on the draft plan and the PCC discussion, the logo and visual identity were played with, draft production of a leaflet for the congregation and the first of many requests for more support with the project. Su McArthur left the group while a little later Barry Semark joined us. The architects also had a proposal for the covered walkway from the suggested ‘Parish Room’ to The Cornerstone. Reports continued to be produced for consideration of the PCC. By March we had a working Statement of Need, April produced a letter from Historic England – very supportive, and a public launch date was proposed. Anne reported back on her Heritage Lottery Funding Training session which then opened the discussion of fund raising in detail. April also saw a visit from the DAC committee to compare the proposed plans within the current church building.

 

In May 2018 we were given an update on the DAC visit, our logo was confirmed, the launch evening leaflet was finalised and the web-site updated. June 21st saw invited members of the public meet for the official launch of the proposals from outside of the immediate church community. The display boards that had been a feature of the south aisle for many months now contained the development of the proposals and the current plans in more detail. These boards were on display for the 10 days of the Heritage Open Days in September along with tours of the tower, an exhibition of a timeline of the history of the church and a dedicated exhibition of Exceptional Women associated with our church of All Saints, Wokingham. In October the Rector gave a presentation to members of Wokingham Town Council who expressed their support for the project and the importance of the church for the community. The 1st November 2018 could have been the 825th birthday of the building if it was dedicated on All Saints day in 1193 just before Bishop Hubert Walter, who was the Bishop of Salisbury, became Archbishop of Canterbury. In December a small group travelled to Banbury for a meeting with the architects at their offices. On the 16th December 2018 our first grant of £3,000 from the Oxford Diocese, New Projects Group, was announced at the 9:30 service

 

In February 2019 All Saints Church was one of the first churches in the Diocese to have completed an energy audit. The audit was compared with how the church is now and how underfloor heating and radiators will contribute to the energy saving. At the end of March 2019 five investigative pits were excavated at various points around the nave and side aisles where an individual from Oxford Archaeology assessed the sub-structure under the wooden block flooring. There was a layer of pitch (tar) and then a slab of concrete, which was likely Victorian, and it had no reinforcement. Below that there was basically soil, other than in the south aisle which was loose filled with brick rubble. The brick rubble had settled and left a 2cm gap under the concrete slab totally unsupported. Some years earlier the slab had given way when a heavy unit had been brought in to replace some lighting in the main nave. Definitely time for a new floor. September 2019 again saw a Heritage Open Day with Tower tours and a history tour of the building. Emphasis was given to the plans on the display boards that clearly illustrated to visitors the changes that we proposed. In September we were able to inspect some of the suggested materials for the floor and other materials suggested for the project. With the Borough Council approving outline planning permission the PCC gave the go ahead for more detailed designs. The frequency of meetings with the architects increased to mostly once a month and some lasting a whole day.

 

The high frequency of meetings with the architects teams continued into 2020, each meeting refining the details for different aspects of the plans.  Landscaping, provision of services, lighting, design of a Parish Room, new entrance design, flooring materials, provision of other finish materials, moving of ‘ledgers’ – (Floor memorials), relocation of very old graves, chair designs, provision of toilets, layout of a servery all started to become potential aspects of a very major design project. As it was now 2020 and we had not fulfilled our plans it was felt there should be a change from CC2020 which originally was short for Community Church 2020. As our vision is to produce a church fit for worship in the 21st century and a space in the community for all to meet, our new title became ‘spaceforall’. No capital ‘s’ as that was used commercially as a programme to encourage youth in particular to consider a future in outer space. The Holt School in February arranged that groups of their pupils had a tour of several town churches and a lot of interest was shown in our plans for the future when they visited All Saints. John Burbury and Richard Gibbs have joined the team.  Richard is coordinating work with the University of the 3rd Age (U3A) bringing together historical and environmental aspects of All Saints in Wokingham. Then in March we had COVID 19 Lockdown!

 

Things are different but the meetings with the architects teams continued but the fund raising was facing challenges that Zoom meetings could not solve. The Heritage Lottery Fund was put on hold nationally. Appeals through a newsletter is not the same as a face to face meeting or discussion. The plans have had to be broken down into smaller phases. Fund raising consultants have been appointed to apply for funds from known charities and other sources but there is still a substantial shortfall.

 

Your small team of ‘spaceforall’ have met around 90 times since the inception of CC2020, each meeting has lasted a minimum of 2 hours along side attending outside conferences and preparing pages of material for discussion and presentation. We do it because we believe the plans will produce a church fit for the 21st century. If on average 6 volunteers were paid @ £8.34/hour that would be worth over £9000 just for meeting, add to this the hours of producing documents to support the project All Saints has had very good value. However voluntary work will not actually pay for the project.

 

Since 1190 the church building has gone through many changes. Changes that include the addition of a tower, raising the height of the nave with a clerestory, moving away from Roman Catholicism, the changes brought by the Reformation, the Puritans, Civil wars, The Victorians, lengthening the Chancel, the addition of the Lady Chapel, replacement of several organs, galleries, World wars, Parish support for a nurse for Wokingham, dry rot, wet rot, death watch beetle, stained glass windows, family and corporation pews have all been changes a congregation have tolerated, made contributions to and mostly accepted.

 

In all that time since 1190 congregations must have thought toilets would be a good idea, a stable form of heating that would not put such a change of temperature strain on the roof timbers would be best, we should be able to do more with our community building – it’s not just for Sundays, weddings, funerals and high days. The archive of parish magazines during and since the Victorians are full of request for contributions from the congregation for many needs of the church building as well as in the wider parish. Lists were published of who had contributed how much towards what – 2/6d to £10.10.00 at a time when it was good to be seen to make the contribution you were able to make, including repeated contributions no matter how small. It was part of being one of the community at that time. We no longer supply parish owned blankets that can be loaned over the winter time but we do need even today to feed the hungry, support the homeless and support the needs of the wider church. We understand there are many request for financial contributions but your spaceforall team now have viable proposals for the future of your church building, the plans are all in place. We hope you recognise the part you can contribute to the future of the church building here in Wokingham.

 

 

John Hook, December 2020

 

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