All Saints Church dominates the centre of the village of Bennington in Lincolnshire. It is of 13th century origin with notable features including a 15th-century oak nave roof but the church was sadly closed for worship in March 2003 and subsequently added to the national ‘Buildings at Risk’ register. Seeing the building boarded up became the turning point for the people of Bennington who in their frustration formed with the help of the Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF), the Benington Community Heritage Trust (BCHT). Their aim was to reopen the church and give it a sustainable future. For the community it was the start of a challenging process to secure funding for their project.
The Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) provided an early stage Project Viability Grant which helped to confirm the feasibility of the scheme. In 2012, the AHF were able to offer the first substantial capital grant for the project through the ‘Challenge Fund’ scheme, funded via Historic England and the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation. It was subsequently awarded funding through the Heritage Lottery Fund (now Heritage Fund) for major capital works.
In addition, the AHF has provided loan finance to the project, principally to provide car parking facilities for users of the church, something that is essential in this very rural community, and also working capital for the construction phase. The working capital helped to support this small charitable trust, which has very limited reserves, as they managed the significant inflow and outflow of funds during the capital phase.
The project, now known as ‘The Beonna’, will provide a wide array of facilities and activities to benefit the wider community, and become the central social space for the community. The church will also continue to offer occasional church services.
An official celebration was held on 8th February 2019 to thank all those who had helped the project to date. Matthew Mckeague, Chief Executive of the AHF commented:
“This is a project that I have been involved in since almost the very start, initially through the Churches Conservation Trust and now the AHF. When I first met the trustees they were adamant that they were not going to lose their church, as they had lost other community services like the post office and local shop. It is fabulous to see the building finished to such a high standard, the team should be proud and specific thanks and recognition has to go to trustees Judy and Kevin who have been given their absolute all in saving this wonderful church.”
We wish the project every success for the future!
· The Architectural Heritage Fund (AHF) is a registered charity, working since 1976 to promote the conservation and sustainable re-use of historic buildings for the benefit of communities across the UK, particularly in economically disadvantaged areas. We are the leading heritage social investor and the only specialist heritage lender operating in the UK. We provide advice, development grants and loans.
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