MANSFIELD’S historic hidden treasure The Old Meeting House church has been awarded £175,000 of Lottery cash to fix its leaking roof.
The Unitarian chapel, set in its own grounds off Stockwell Gate, dates from 1702 and is the oldest non-conformist church in Nottinghamshire.
Its interior is steeped in history and includes three stained-glass windows designed by the company of William Morris, the world-renowned artist and designer.
This heritage has been placed under threat by the building’s leaking slate roof, with the damage from rainfall obvious from one glance at the damp ceiling and pillars.
The Rev Patrick Timperley says the church applied for funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) to repair the roof and discovered at Christmas that it had been successful.
“It was a wonderful Christmas present but we had to keep quiet until now,” the Rev Timperley said on Thursday.
“The people of Mansfield should see the church as something to be proud of. It is a charming building and many local people who come into the church say they cannot believe they have never been here before.”
The Old Meeting House is receiving the largest single grant in the East Midlands, but several other Grade I and II-listed buildings in Nottinghamshire are also benefiting from the fund.
Joan Bray, HLF committee member for the East Midlands, said: “We are funding 22 grants and this is the largest one.
“It is the oldest non-conformist church in the county and this is worth celebrating. You can see the real damage being done by the rain coming through the roof.”
The Old Meeting House is just a stone’s throw from the Four Seasons Centre, but most shoppers rushing past along Stockwell Gate will be unaware of the chapel’s historical importance.
It is Grade II-listed and was built 309 years ago for a dissenting congregation which had been worshipping in the town for almost 40 years before that.
Although unremarkable from the outside, stepping through the doors of the church reveals its beautiful interior.
The Morris Windows, as three of the building’s stained-glass windows are usually known, were installed between 1913 and 1929 and are considered classic examples of the Morris Company’s style with their green, wallpaper-like background.
The Act of Parliament or Tavern Clock has been ticking in the church since the early 1740s and regular members of the congregation say this oak-framed timepiece adds to the calm in the building.
Church trustee Brian Whiting (79) has been attending the chapel for 75 years.
“It is a church I have been brought up in,” he said. “It has its own open faith and has a very relaxed religious attitude. It is a very pleasant place to be.”
Architect and surveyor David Glew, in charge of the repairs, said work on the church was likely to last around four months take next year.
The HLF and English Heritage have been able to maintain their planned level of funding for places of worship this year despite the tough economic climate. Dr Anthony Streeten, regional director of English Heritage, said: “Without it many brave but struggling congregations would be faced with watching their beloved churches and chapels falling into ruin.”