The grants add significantly to funds already provided by the Parish and the Southwold Trust and will enable the repair and restoration of the church.
Investigations in 2015 revealed serious structural problems with the Grade II listed building. The National Lottery Fund provided £40,000 towards the £52,000 that was needed to make the tower of the church safe and to discover the reasons for the structural problems. With the new funding and the extra £10,000 from Historic England, work can now proceed to deliver both the permanent repairs necessary and some important improvements, heritage activities and displays which will enable more people to learn about and engage with the history of the building
Built at the height of WW1, the church is a unique example of the work of priest and architect Fr Benedict Williamson, who built around 30 churches in the years from the late 1890s to the early 1920s, mostly in and around London. It is built in the Late Gothic style and its tower is a noteworthy feature of the Southwold landscape. The view from the tower is outstanding, taking in the whole sweep of Sole Bay and the River Blyth out to Halesworth.
Parish Priest Fr Roger de Lacy-Spencer, said: “These generous grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic England will ensure that the church can continue to welcome both parishioners and visitors alike. The church is very much part of the Southwold scene and this grant will enable more people to come and share it with us.”
Work will start in the next few months to repair the roof and structure of the tower, replace damaged stonework and manage more effectively the disposal of rain water. Key improvements will include new lighting to enhance the important pictures in the church, interpretation of the church building using digital technology and the provision of a viewing platform at the top of the tower with an explanation of the history and geography of Southwold and its surroundings.
Parish project manager, Cedric Burton, said: “This is a very exciting opportunity for the Sacred Heart Church in Southwold. The National Lottery fund grant will not only to secure its future for generations to come but also to describe its purpose and mission and to enable people to see the building in the context of its location and the history of the area.
“We are looking forward to working with our architects, Nicholas Warns Architects Ltd of Norwich, Historic England and the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture at York University, together with local partners, to deliver an inspiring experience, whether of quiet contemplation or of the wide vista of the past and its connection to the present as part of our enduring ‘Mission to a Seaside Place’.
Robyn Llewellyn, Head of HLF East of England, said: “We’re delighted to support this important project which will help to protect a very special building. Thanks to National Lottery player’s more people will be able to share the beautiful space and its stories.”
Pictured above, Southwold parishioners celebrate grants for the Sacred Heart of Southwold heritage project with Parish Priest Fr Roger de Lacy-Spencer.