For those who have already followed us, a big thank you for your support. For those, who are new - welcome to the St Helen’s on the high street blog.
After months of applications, admin and prayers, we are excited to share the good news that work begins in earnest on Monday 12th February. The scaffolding will go up and centuries of damage to St Helen’s beautiful stonework will now be lovingly repaired.
What is St Helen’s on the high street?
Church isn’t something we go to, its family we belong to and absolutely everyone is welcome no matter what. From February 2018, you might see this inscribed on the beautiful artwork which will encase the scaffolding erected to repair St Helen’s. It’s a sentiment we care deeply about at All Saints. Family is community and that extends to the beautiful buildings we share with you in our city, Worcester.
Where is St Helen’s? Yes, you’ve passed it many times and maybe not noticed its crumbling splendour. Tucked up near the Cathedral end of the high street on Fish Street, is St Helen’s - a beautiful grade II listed church, believed to be the oldest in Worcester!
St Helen’s has always been a consecrated building, yet over the years it’s had a range of uses. Some know it as a Second World War Serviceman’s club and others will remember its use as the county’s Records Office. In 2002 it was returned to the care of All Saints church and we saw a chance to restore some of its former glory.
Why is St Helen’s being restored?
St Helen’s is a well used space, hosting our regular Sunday evening services and a weekly toddler group. As such, in 2016 we saw it was in a poor state of repair and rightly included on the ‘Heritage at Risk’ register. Not since the Victorian age has St Helen’s undergone any major restoration work!
Action was needed, and this is when our application to the Heritage Lottery Fund (that’s HLF to those in the know) was made. Eighteen months ago, we received a grant from the HLF to tackle urgently needed stonework and other masonry related repairs to St Helen’s.
Once we had the funding awarded, we set to work with a series of detailed surveys and investigations. Leaving no nook or cranny uncovered, we created stone by stone drawings to support a detailed specification outlining the required restoration work. A beautiful building, full of beautiful details which all needed attention.
What work is being done at St Helen’s?
Crumbling stonework, eroding mortar, rusting iron clamps and leaking lead all need urgent attention. As do our problematic iron drainpipes, which will be taken down, restored and re-affixed. Oh and did we mention, years of encrusted bird droppings need to be removed and deterrent netting installed. Any takers for that job?
Disappointingly when the contract went out for tender, the costs came in significantly higher than anticipated. As we had already applied for the maximum HLF grant available to us, this presented quite a problem. Thankfully, our architects worked hard to come up with a revised schedule of works which met the HLF budget available to us.
However, a significant shortfall in funding remains. In order to safeguard the future of the building entirely, we need further grants. This gap has been closed slightly with some generous pledges made by other grant awarding bodies – and to them, we are very grateful.
When does work at St Helen’s start?
Keep an eye on the site from 12th February, when our appointed contractors Sally Strachey Historic Conservation will begin with the scaffolding – which in itself is incredibly exciting. The building will be wrapped with innovative artwork designed by local artist Tracy Flynn and will make a real impact on the High Street. Look out for the screens showing something of our restoration project, the history of St Helen's and life inside the building.
Around the corner, our Fish Street scaffolding will allow us to thank those wonderful organisations who have helped fund our repairs while also offering local businesses the chance to advertise.
Who is St Helen’s for?
For us church is family, and absolutely everyone is welcome. We are committed to our Worcester community and we warmly extend an invite to you to join us. There are a few ways you can be part of St Helen’s:
Come and visit any Friday between 10–2pm where our trained guides will bring the lost history of St Helen’s to life.
Drop by for a coffee and relax in our cosy pop-up cafe – Fridays 10-2pm.
Join us for our reflective and spiritual evening service, 6.30pm every Sunday.
This is a truly exhilarating time. Not just in terms of restoration, but in the new ways we can serve our city by opening St Helen’s as a community space for all. We look forward to welcoming you soon.