The Church Council has, for more than ten years, been working on a project to refurbish the interior of Holy Trinity Church, Rayleigh to prepare it to be able to serve our community better for the future. In this, we shall be building on the work of many generations over the past 640 years, during which a church has stood in the centre of our market town. In the Past thirty years we have successfully restored the historic Tudor South Porch to the grade II* listed church (£40,000); created a highly successful Parish Centre to the north (£350,000) and more recently restored the exterior of the ancient church (£357,000). The last significant internal refurbishment was in 1912.
We have completed the statutory consultations for the refurbishment and now have agreement to carry out a range of improvements, including very welcome encouragement from the Church Buildings Council and have obtained final Faculty (planning) approval. Universal Stone (our main contractor) has now started. We have an architect, quantity surveyor and consulting engineers who are supporting us. Key elements are the replacement of the electrical system and lighting, which is many years out of date (from 1935); replacement of the heating system, which is inefficient and unreliable; and re-decoration because the church appears dingy and unwelcoming, with some of the paint peeling off.
Having been advised that our pipe organ is beyond economic repair, and after extensive research, we plan to replace the instrument with a high-quality Viscount digital organ. As this is physically much smaller, we will be able to open up and extend the chancel to achieve a massive improvement to the natural light and also the creation of ramp access to the chancel, for wheelchairs. The light and space will be further enhanced by the replacement of the clergy vestry with a ‘vestry in a cupboard’. The improvement to the chancel will be completed by a unified paving with pale Ancaster stone and by extending it by about 1m into the nave, with full width steps. The rather ‘heavy’ choir desks will be replaced by movable furniture, so as to improve flexibility of use, e.g. for concerts.
We also aim to open up the back of the nave, so as to create a much improved space for ‘milling’ or activities such as Café Church. This will involve moving the large stone font to the south aisle and the audio-visual desk into the NW corner. Consequent to this, we plan to reverse the positions of the pulpit and lectern. The other actions in our original list, such as the replacement of the pews with chairs and reinstatement of a balcony, will be left on hold for the future. To see some sketches, and a floor plan of how this all should look, please see the Project 640 Gallery.
We now have a far more accurate assessment of the cost, which is £551,000 for the construction and with the addition of the organ and choir furniture, it becomes £642,000. We are continuing applications for grants and are confident of the generosity of our Church Family in providing the rest.
Update Nov. 2021: We are most grateful for the support of so many people who have generously donated the £56,000 we were seeking to pay for the construction phase. Some items increased in cost by £15,000 before we signed the contract. We have raised £6,000 toward this but now need to raise the balance of £9,000 as work has begun.
Please find a leaflet on our plans for a new organ for 2022 at Holy Trinity, as part of the
church's Project 640 refurbishment project, and the sponsorship and donation form should you wish to donate. We are very grateful for your interest, support and generosity - thank you.