Funding boost to repair and open up Suffolk church

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Funding boost to repair and open up Suffolk church

A project to make essential repairs to a landmark Suffolk Catholic church and widen its community access, including as a music venue, has received initial funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF).

Our Lady Star of the Sea in Lowestoft, built in 1902, has received development funding of £25,400 from the HLF to help its owner, the Diocese of East Anglia, progress its plans to apply for a full grant of £221,500 at a later date.

The project aims to carry out essential external repairs to the church building and also develop the "Opening Doors' element to increase wider public use of the historic Lowestoft town centre building.

Essential external repairs include work to prevent rainwater getting inside the church and to restore damaged stonework and the tracery of the West window.

To increase wider community use, the project will also include an interpretation scheme for visitors to appreciate the architecture, art and religious significance of the interior. This will include training opportunities for stewards. By providing easy to erect modular staging, the project aims to increase use of the building as a music performance venue for choral and instrumental concerts.

In recent years the church tower has been a well-used nesting site for kittiwakes, a rare gull species, and the project will provide for close-up public viewing of the birds and provide information about them.

Built in 1902, the listed building is a prominent feature of the Lowestoft townscape and its town centre location suits a wider community role. The interior is a fine example of the Gothic revival style, has an excellent acoustic for music and a splendid church organ.

Commenting on the award, Father Paul Chanh, resident priest at Our Lady's, said: "We're delighted that we've received this support thanks to National Lottery players. As well as continuing to be a place of worship we are pleased that the local community will have a greater chance to use and enjoy it.

"The Diocese also appreciates the professional input given by Nicholas Warns Architects in preparing the building conservation aspects of the application."

Following the initial Grants for Places of Worship award, detailed proposals are then considered by HLF and as long as plans have progressed satisfactorily and according to the original proposal, an award for the project is confirmed.

Pictured top is the interior of Our Lady of the sea and, above, some of the stonework which has fallen off the church in the recent past.