The Sheerness Dockyard Preservation Trust (SDPT) is delighted to announce the success of its £4.75m Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) bid for the rescue, repair and transformation of one of England’s great forgotten monuments, the Grade II* listed former Dockyard Church, Sheerness, on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent.
The Trust has received a Round 1 pass from HLF for a Heritage Enterprise Grant, which unlocks £500,000 of development funding, with a further £4.2m becoming available on the successful completion of the development phase. Over the coming months the Trust will be appointing its professional team, including project architect, first embarking on £200,000 of urgent works (joint-funded by Historic England and Heritage Lottery Fund) to secure the fabric of the building. This pioneering project will transform Dockyard Church, providing a number of uses, including a new ‘enterprise centre’ and a permanent display space for one of the great wonders of British naval history, the vast Model of Sheerness Dockyard, created in the early 19th century and measuring 40ft square when fully assembled. The HLF Enterprise Grant funding will enable the Trust to: • Secure the fabric of the Church by undertaking immediate urgent repairs. • Create a new Enterprise Centre – with partners including the London Youth Support Trust – which will bring together, in one place, all of the strands of support for young people to help them develop and sustain their businesses: from school leavers’ support and training, to premises, business mentoring and career development initiatives. • Conserve and return to Sheerness the great Dockyard Model and allow public access via the upper floor of the Church. • Provide a community café and event space venue for local and regional hire. The grant award marks the end of a two-year initiative to find a beneficial and viable new use for the building since it was taken into the ownership of the new Trust, a process enabled by funding from HLF, Historic England, Swale Borough Council, the Architectural Heritage Fund and the Pilgrim Trust. The total project cost is £8.5m and the Trust will be embarking on a major fundraising drive over the next year to raise the remaining match funding. Quote from William Palin, Chair of the SDPT: ‘The award of this major National Lottery grant represents a great moment both for Dockyard Church and for the Isle of Sheppey and a huge vote of confidence in our project. This is a building which just a few years ago appeared to be on the brink of collapse, with no future and no hope, standing as a melancholy reminder of the changing fortunes of this once proud naval Dockyard and community. Now it will become the focus of major investment to restore its dignity and give it a new future at the heart of the life in the region. At the end of the project, its monumental Classical portico will once again give entry to a building bustling with life, where people will come for work and leisure, with the great Dockyard Model drawing visitors from around the country. Dockyard church has stood at the heart of the local community for generations. This strong affection and sense of association has generated widespread local interest and support for our project, as shown by the success of our public engagement and outreach projects including open days, schools events and the on-going Reminiscence Project.’ We are grateful to everyone who has supported us, in particular National Lottery players, without whom this grant would not be possible, and our partnership funders, Historic England, Swale Borough Council, the Architectural Heritage Fund and the Pilgrim Trust. This campaign started back in 2012 with the compulsory purchase of the Church by Swale Borough Council, and we would also like to acknowledge the crucial support at this early stage from the World Monuments Fund Britain and SAVE Britain’s Heritage. We look forward to the next chapter in this great adventure.’ Quote from Tessa Hilder, Support Officer for the South East, The Architectural Heritage Fund: ‘Without the courageous efforts of SDPT, the future of this wonderful historic building would remain bleak. The impressive backing secured by the Trust for their innovative plans demonstrates the real difference that a community-led charitable organisation can have in turning round the fortunes of buildings that matter to people, locally and nationally. The Architectural Heritage Fund is delighted to be supporting the Trust.’ Quote from Emma Wiggins, Interim Director of Regeneration at Swale Borough Council: ‘We are delighted to have been able to support the Sheerness Dockyard Preservation Trust in both securing the building and helping provide match funding for their successful bid. This marks a significant step towards Sheerness and the Isle of Sheppey bringing their considerable heritage to the fore, helping to support the visitor economy and acting as a catalyst for regeneration. The prospect of a unique space for small businesses also presents a great opportunity. We see the Dockyard Church as a significant heritage project within the Island’s wider heritage strategy.’ Quote from Tom Foxall, Historic England, Inspector of Historic Monuments & Places (Kent): This announcement of a substantial grant from the National Lottery for major works to the Dockyard Church represents a significant moment in a long campaign to save this outstanding local landmark. We are delighted that the considerable efforts of the Sheerness Dockyard Preservation Trust, supported by the local community among many others, have been so justly rewarded. Historic England will continue its active involvement in this project, starting with a financial contribution to urgent repairs. We commend the overall objectives of the scheme and look forward to working with the project team on the details of a proposal that will finally see this building returned to its former glory and become a major asset to the community.