The idea for the project was born in late 2014 but it wasn’t until the end of 2016 that two years of very hard and difficult work finally bore fruit. The project became a reality thanks to a substantial grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund.
The grant of approximately £1.3 million is divided into two phases – development and delivery. Development involves appointing architects, a project administrator, quantity surveyor and other essential people who have the skills and expertise to design and plan the transformation of a Grade I listed building. This phase has now begun.
Providing there are no obstacles and we are successful in our application for delivery monies we will then move on to the second phase which is doing the actual build and installing all of the services. We would expect to start and complete this in 2018.
The objective is to bring the church back into more general use, much as it was in the middle ages when there were markets and meetings and services on a daily basis. In the 21st century this means somewhere to eat and drink, to socialise and meet new people; obviously toilets and a cloakroom are needed; the place could not be supported by donations alone so an income stream has to be devised. An income stream could be generated by streaming of performances from the best theatres in London and elsewhere. Opera, ballet, theatre, film, all would become part of the programme of entertainment. And then, if you have streaming technology you have to have top quality sound and lighting; and then, if you have all that you can have live performances, concerts, recitals, shows, choirs; and then, if you have all this, you need somewhere for people to sit and easier ways of getting to and from the place. What about the disabled amongst us or who wish to come here, how do they get in? Then, when winter is coming, how do we keep warm? This is what we are working towards.
The history of Wigmore and its church is a huge and rewarding field of study, so one of the key functions of the project is to provide a resource to explore this fascinating area in detail. With the help of an interpretive designer the story of Wigmore down the ages will be communicated through lectures, educational programmes, information and multi-media experiences.
After lots of work and consultation we have finally submitted our Planning Applications and here you can see our suggested layout and some artist impressions of what we have in mind for this wonderful and spacious building. Full details can be seen on Herefordshire Planning Portal.
We have had to adapt some of our earlier ideas mainly due to cost constraints: the north chapel will be extended to provide a private meeting room for around 40 people with small catering area and can be opened up to the nave. The nave will be the main auditorium with drop down screen and top quality sound and video projection for concerts, live streaming and live performances. The south aisle will house a small kitchenette and serve as a flexible space for use as a cafe, exhibition and interpretation space. Huge thanks are due to Matthew and Garry at Spirit Architects and Thomas Design for their patience, perseverance and wonderful work.
The Wigmore Centre CIC has been supported by a grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Thanks to National Lottery players, we have been able to commence the development phase of the transformation of St James’ Church into an Interpretive, Heritage and Community Centre.