Steve Brine had the pleasure to drop by, as transformed St Paul’s Church threw open its doors to the public last week to reveal the completion of the first phase of its Building for Life project. The Dean of Winchester, the Very Revd Catherine Ogle, joined Winchester, the MP, donors, craftspeople and members of the Fulflood community to celebrate the transformation of the interior of St Paul’s.
With a design created by award-winning architect Antony Feltham-King of St Ann’s Gate Architects and built by Amiri Construction, the church now boasts a fabulous new gallery with glass-sided meeting room, new community kitchen and toilets and an intimate new prayer chapel with beautiful original artwork.
Along the way underfloor heating and a level floor have been installed and the whole building, including the gallery, made fully accessible. Environmental concerns were key to choices made, including thorough underfloor insulation, a new efficient boiler and automatic sensor lighting. Victorian floorboards were salvaged for reuse elsewhere along with a hidden fireplace discovered during works.
Canon Peter Seal, Rector of St Paul’s, told the audience: ‘The redesign of the church reflects our beliefs here. We are a church with “soft edges” where all are welcome – those with no faith, that myriad of people in the middle just wondering, and those for whom it’s central to their being. We gather around a curved dais. The gallery has a wonderfully curved shape as it weaves its way through the pillars. Thanks to the imagination of our architect, we have combined the best of the new with our fine, grade 2 listed, Victorian church.
‘When work was first completed, I went up in the lift with one of our wheelchair users. On the gallery, I asked him, “Isn’t it a thrill to be able to get up here?” His telling reply was, “Yes, but it’s even better to be able to get in at the new, level entrance!”
‘After so much generosity and so much hard work, we have achieved a place and a space of huge versatility which will provide for both church and community for decades, decades to come. As we emerge from the pandemic, we are actively looking at ways to serve the local community, especially the most vulnerable.’
Bill Lucas, one of the St Paul’s churchwardens and chair of the Building for Life project, thanked all those present and encouraged visitors to spread the word. ‘This is now a first-class venue for music and cultural events with terrific acoustics. It’s a place of beauty and peace for those who wish to pause and reflect. And we have a space for meetings and exhibitions with excellent catering facilities.’ To find out about hire of St Paul’s and its new facilities, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.