The driving reason for the Transformation Project is to help promote and inspire the overall sense of well-being throughout the village and its surround. Whether it is promoting friendships, alleviating loneliness, appreciating heritage, running environmental projects, improving social cohesion through societies and clubs or providing a venue for business growth through exhibitions and conferences, the activities are boundless, benefitting the social, economic, health and educational aspects of village life while of course continuing to provide a centre for spiritual development and religious function. Our Covid experience of 2020 to 2022 has keenly demonstrated the value of a wonderful sense of community that reaches into all homes, schools and businesses ensuring no-one is left behind or forgotten but instead included and befriended.
Billingshurst Parish Council has a Neighbourhood Plan. It says that as at June 2019, sites in the planning pipeline in Billingshurst Parish were contributing approximately 1,250 dwellings towards the housing supply in the Horsham District Planning Framework over the plan period (since 2011). In 2011 the population was 8,232, a growth of 26% over the previous 10 years. Billingshurst is growing fast. It needs well-functioning hubs that help generate a happy community.
The Transformation Project intends that St Mary’s Church will undergo a complete re-fit along the guiding lines of equality, inclusion and sustainability so as to help our wonderful village and its surround to be a happy, caring and inspiring place to live.
Thank you for all the support you can give us to accomplish this.
In order to achieve its vision the Transformation Project has broken the build program into two distinct build phases. Phase one involves the church tower and enclosing the church vestry and phase two is the rest of the work in the main body of the church.
Our planned works and equipment are:
- Install two toilet facilities in tower lobby, one access friendly
- Install new access-friendly glass doors at tower entrance
- Convert to access-friendly the glass doors at nave entrance
- Build a mezzanine in tower lobby
- Build storage facilities in tower lobby and on new mezzanine
- Build in bellringing chamber an access platform to belfry
- Install new lighting and heating throughout tower
- Install new fire alarm and security system throughout the church
- Enclose the vestry with oak panels from tower lobby
- Remove pews and level floor in nave
- Install kitchen facility
- Level floor in chancel
- Install new audio-visual system
- Install new lighting system
- Install new heating system
- Enclose Lady Chapel
- Refit vestry
Phase 1 - more details
Install two toilet facilities in tower lobby, one access friendly (Phase 1)
- Install two toilets in tower entrance, one access-friendly toilet with a baby changing facility.
This will encourage a greater use of the building by providing these essential facilities. It will also improve the level of Health and Safety as church users will no longer need to walk some 50m outside to the nearest toilets.
Install new access-friendly glass doors at tower entrance (Phase 1)
- Just inside the current main church doors, a new set of access-friendly glass doors will allow the church to be left open during daylight hours. Visitors will be welcome to enjoy the wonder of St Marys .
The current situation in the church is neither open to visitors nor provides any provision for those needing access-friendly facilities. No doors are currently automatic. Providing an access-friendly environment is one of the top priorities of St Mary’s Transformation Project: equality and inclusion for all.
Convert to access-friendly the glass doors at nave entrance
- This will allow full access into the church on an equal basis.
Build a mezzanine in tower lobby (Phase 1)
- Allows space for toilets at tower ground level
- Allows for new storage cupboards
- Makes safer access to bell ringing chamber by much reducing the length of a very long and steep staircase
Build storage facilities in tower lobby and on new mezzanine (Phase 1)
- Install new cupboard facilities in the tower above the toilets, under the new stairs and on the mezzanine deck.
The church is lacking in storage space. In order to open up the church unattended we need to create new storage spaces which are easily accessible and secure.
Build in bellringing chamber an access platform to belfry (Phase 1)
Assessing the belfry is an important part of bell maintenance, roof maintenance and potentially swift conservation. Currently access is dangerous and can only be made using safety harnesses. Building a platform in the bellringing chamber will make access safe and maintenance easier.
Install new lighting and heating throughout tower (Phase 1)
The current lighting in the church entrance and tower is neither particularly welcoming nor is it sensitive to the historic beauty of the church. A new lighting scheme has been designed that will ensure a bright and inviting experience when entering the church. A hot air heat curtain will be installed inside the entrance glass doors so as to provide a warm welcome.
Install new fire alarm and security system throughout the church (Phase 1)
- Level 1 fire system to be installed
- Adequate safety lighting inside and outside the church.
- Professional fire risk strategy
In order to provide a safe environment for the community and visitors from further afield the church needs to upgrade its level of fire system to L1. Installing a new system will also significantly improve the alert warning system in the bell ringing chamber, which is open to all people who wish to learn bell ringing. CCTV will be installed so as to give better security to all visitors as well as the church itself.
Enclose the vestry with oak panels from tower lobby (Phase 1)
- Enclose the vestry in the church with the wooden panels currently in the tower lobby, known as the Morris Screen.
The current situation in the church is that it is only open when used for services or scheduled activities. Otherwise it is shut and nobody can visit it. This is because there is no secure area within the church for valuables and effects. The current vestry is the North chancel, entered through stone arches and currently only enclosed by heavy curtains. Making it a secure with wooden panelling will enable the church to be open during daylight hours unattended. This ancient and landmark building can then be used by the whole community and visitors as a place of peace, fellowship and interest.
Remove pews and level floor in nave. (Phase 2)
- Remove pews
- Re-lay floor to provide 375msq open floorspace in main body of church.
This will enable the church space to be used to its maximum potential with no obstacles impeding either activities in the church or church access. The Victorian pews and narrow aisles make current mobility very difficult. Providing an accessible environment meets one of the top priorities of St Mary’s Transformation Project: Equality and inclusion. The freed-up space can be used for many things such as:
- Music groups – chamber, jazz, soloists
- Choral groups
- Youth clubs
- Café – drop in café, support café,
- Mums and toddlers’ groups
- Support groups – for vulnerable/ disadvantaged / minorities
- Lectures – visiting speakers, educational, health
- Societies and clubs
- Business – exhibitions, meeting venue, conference.
- Trade – demonstrations
- Festivals – art, food and drink, music, lifestyle
- Fairs – Christmas, Spring, Summer
- Workshops – job seeking, mortgage advice, legacy advice
- Health – exercise class, weight watchers
- Film and other large screen requirements
- School activities – drama, education, exhibitions, café
- Enhanced flexibility for services and worship
Install kitchen facility (Phase 2)
- Install small kitchen in main body of church to allow hot drinks and light snacks to be served.
This will enable hospitality for users of the church. Different groups can run a café and there will be a soft socialising area. It will be an essential part of creating a warm and friendly atmosphere and can be particularly useful to support vulnerable and disadvantaged groups.
Level floor in chancel (Phase 2)
This will area of the chancel area a much more versatile space, especially for music bands and concerts. Currently there are three different levels in the chancel which is very restrictive.
Install new audio-visual system (Phase 2)
- Install new audio and video equipment and supplemental tv screens.
The current situation is that the audio-visual system is old and serve those who are hard of hearing as well as it could. A loop system would much improve those with hearing needs, and furthers again one of the top priorities of St Mary’s Transformation Project: Equality and inclusion. A drop-down screen from behind the main arch into the chancel will much improve visual inclusion, as will supplemental tv screens. A new audio-visual system will facilitate:
- a superb recording or live transmission or recording of events such as shows, conference, weddings, funerals, baptisms, on line talks.
- an excellent forum for public address with multiple microphone points and sound loops.
- an excellent sound system to relay music
- an excellent tool for providing heritage or environmental information.
Install new lighting system (Phase 2)
The current lighting system is antiquated and energy inefficient. A new lighting system that can serve all the requirements of the users of the transformed church will be designed. It will use LED lights and significantly reduce the carbon footprint of the church. It will also significantly enhance the building’s natural beauty of high ceilings and magnificent stone pillars and arches.
Install new heating system (Phase 2)
The current heating system is aging. With the complete refit of the inside of the church and the relaying of the floor a new heating system will be necessary, replacing the old cast iron water pipes that line the current aisles. The final system will be a wet system with wall radiators. The actual means of heat generation is still undecided and will depend on the best technology available, but all options will be considered including a boiler that can converted to hydrogen gas.
Enclose Lady Chapel (Phase 2)
- Enclose the Lady Chapel (South Chancel) with glass screens
There is no area in the church that can provide a soundproof area serving either as a quiet place within the church or as an area for noisy activity that might otherwise disturb the rest of the church. Enclosing what is known as the Lady Chapel will give a wonderful new space within the church that can be used for contemplation and counselling or equally noisy children’s activities and music practice.
This will maximise the space of the vestry.
We are extremely grateful for the level of support that we are receiving from our community for the Transformation Project. It really encourages us and also helps us show fund awarders such as the National Lottery Community Fund that their support of our project is worthwhile.
Whether you are an individual or an organisation we’d love to hear of your support. Fill in our project questionnaire or write to us expressing you support. Here are some examples of support from local groups and schools:
Expressions of Support in St Mary's Transformation Project
1st Billingshurst Scouts – Zoe Jenkins
Indoor Camping Wakened Sleepover would be ideal use of this space and also some of scouting exhibitions and fundraising events would also benefit from this space.
Billingshurst has a large scouting family of some 180 Beavers, Cubs & Scouts together with 20 Leaders including some who are disabled, so we are pleased you can offer disabled access. We would like to make use of your VDU facilities as we like to show slides and video clips to our Scouts. We’d also like to use the kitchenette for serving coffee and teas.
We eagerly look forward to this new Community facility. (letter 10.09.2021)
Billingshurst and Horsham Chamber of Commerce – Alan Wright
We as a Chamber on behalf of the local businesses would like to support this project and make use of the space when complete to hold our annual Business Shows, showcasing local businesses in the Horsham & Billingshurst Area,
On viewing the premises and plans recently, it will make an ideal Business Show venue with the proposed VDU, Lighting, sound together with the domestic facilities feel it will be perfect for us. (letter 10.08.2021)
Dauxwood PreSchool – Committee
We have heard about the proposed Transformation Project at St Mary’s Church, Billingshurst and I am writing on behalf of Dauxwood Pre-School to express our interest in using St Mary’s a venue for some of our children’s end of term events, for example our Christmas Nativity and Jingle and Mingle as it will be an ideal venue to host our many parents and grandparents for these most valuable events for our children.
We’d also like to use the kitchenette for serving coffee and teas. (letter 14.09.2021)
Sussex Green Living – Carrie
Following our recent conversation we would be very happy to help local volunteers set up a repair cafe or community cafe with repairs and eco advice. We have helped set up about 8 or 10 repair cafes, currently we are helping Ashington Church set one up for their community. When the time is right I am happy to meet with any interested parties. (Letter 24.06.2021)
The Weald Community School – Sarah Reid, Deputy Director of Inclusion
The refitted church and cafe space could be run by Weald students from our Aspire group. This would be a great volunteering opportunity for these students to build skills for work. The tech support shop running alongside the cafe would give local residents a chance to get the most from their technical devices but give our students self confidence in their own abilities.
The churchyard area could be utilised by our nature club, a longstanding club which involves students across all year groups improving the natural environment around us. (email 14.02.2022)
Bernardi Music Group – Andrew Bernardi (Coolham)
This beautiful church building set high on the hill in all its glory when transformed,
will be an ideal venue for our music concerts, Shipley Arts Festival and
with the additional facilities planned will provide a perfect space for both our
musicians and their audience. (letter 12.08.2021).
Billingshurst Drama Society – Julia Jepps
BDS may well be looking for other spaces to rehearse and perform, so this is very timely. We are trying to bring BDS more into the community – we have a safeguarding policy so we can work with young people in our shows. (email 09.08.2021)
CarMerMusic – Ray Merridew (Ifold)
We were extremely excited to hear the news of the plan to make St Mary’s Church in Billingshurst a ‘Concert Venue for the Future’. A space of this kind for the whole community would be a massive asset to the area and a project we would certainly support. (letter 16.08.2021)
Rotary South – Carole Knight
We at Rotary South are always looking for new venues for our Youth Competitions particularly Young Musician and Youth Debates, and have been advised by the local Billingshurst and District Rotary Club that this would be an ideal venue to hold these annual competitions.
We will eagerly follow your progress through your local Rotary Club and look forward to using the venue in due course. (letter 11.08.2021)
The Rock Choir – Sarah Hollick
We have heard about the proposed Transformation Project at St Mary’s Church, Billingshurst and I am writing on behalf of The Rock Choir to express our interest in using St Mary’s a venue for some of our music events, and rehearsals. We meet one a month, usually early evening time and our meetings last about two hours.
We usually have about twenty members in a meeting, including one disabled person in a wheelchair, so we are pleased you can offer disabled access. We would like to make use of your VDU facilities as we like to show slides and video clips to our members. We’d also like to use the kitchenette for serving coffee and teas.
Our group has been running for about 9 years but is now looking for a larger venue as it has expanded considerably. (letter 09.08.2021).