Lottery funding helps bring new lease of life to Lancaster church

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A Lancaster church has been given a new lease of life, thanks to National Lottery players and community fundraising.

St Joseph’s in Skerton was covered in scaffolding for six months for repairs to one of the last churches built by the Pugin family who were responsible for the neo-Gothic revival in architecture, most notably the Houses of Parliament interior.

St Joseph's RC Church with its restored exterior.

St Joseph's RC Church with its restored exterior.

The Grade II listed church, which boasts some Gillow furnishings, is now fit for the 21st Century.

“This major refit means that we’ve re-established a building at the heart of the community where people can gather for special occasions and events,” said parish priest, Fr Philip Conner.

“It’s a beautiful building and to know that we’ve preserved it for another generation is wonderful.”

But the project wasn’t just about restoring the church, it has helped St Joseph’s reach out to the wider community and become more accessible to Skerton people.

The church was under scaffolding for six months.

The church was under scaffolding for six months.

The work was paid for by a £194,400 Heritage Lottery Fund grant and a £25,000 community fundraising effort including concerts, exhibitions and other events.

The restoration has also nurtured stronger links with the adjacent St Joseph’s RC Primary School and connected the church to the Food Club run at the nearby Melbourne Pub. Little Joe’s Clothes Bank was set up recently too.

The work included a new disabled access and disabled toilet as well as a refurbished entrance foyer open for quiet contemplation when the rest of the church is closed.

The church tower has been re-pointed, guttering and drainpipes renewed, rotten wood replaced and lead flashings repaired.

Frank Malone of St Joseph's Parish Building Committee, Gary Rawlinson of Heritage Conservation Restoration Ltd and Fr Philip Conner.

Frank Malone of St Joseph's Parish Building Committee, Gary Rawlinson of Heritage Conservation Restoration Ltd and Fr Philip Conner.

It is the first time since the Catholic church was built in 1901 that St Joseph’s has undergone such extensive repairs and once everything has dried out, the interior will be painted.

A local history project with Our Lady’s Catholic College is already underway and a new book telling the story of St Joseph’s will be published soon.

With more fundraising, the car park could be improved and community gardens developed at the back of the church.