Published: 00:00, 16 September 2015
| Updated: 11:43, 16 September 2015
Thirty years ago the church had a vision of buying a pub in a deprived area of Chatham and opening it up as a meeting place for the community.
That dream turned to reality when the Bishop of Rochester, the Rt Rev James Langstaff officially opened the Magpie Centre.
The former Magpie Tavern has undergone a £500,000 conversion and been transformed into a hub for everyone in the Luton Arches area of the town.
Even the beer garden has been transformed - it is now a vegetable patch where produce is grown to be used in the centre’s cafe.
Spurred by a £300,000 grant from the Diocese of Rochester, which bought the pub building from the brewery in 2011, the project was led by neighbouring St Paul’s with All Saints’ Church.
It is being run by the All Saints Community Project Trust in partnership with the church.
Among the special guests at the opening were Chatham MP Tracey Crouch, ward councillor and Labour group leader Vince Maple and Canon Bryan Knapp, the former vicar of St Paul’s with All Saints.
Project manager Linda Fiddyment said: “We have been using the church for a wide range of activities for years, but we have outgrown its use. We have always had an eye on taking the pub and grasped the opportunity when the pub closed.”
The new centre has a large function room for hire, offices and a cafe which will be fully manned by volunteers.
Ms Fiddyment said while the inside had undergone a facelift, much of the outside remained the same to retain the history of the pub which is more than 100 years old.
Several organisations have made substantial donations including the Veolia Environmental Trust and SITA Trust, which have awarded grants of £35,559 and £25,429 respectively through the Landfill Communities Fund. Medway Council financed the installation of a new roof, making it watertight.
Scouts from the 26th Medway group and young people from the Prince’s Trust and the National Citizens Service worked on improving the outside areas.
Over the past year the church has researched the needs of the commmunity and among the services provided will be walking groups, advice sessions and daytime activities for older people.
The Rev Keith Johnson, from the church, said: “I believe the Magpie Centre will be a blessing to the whole community and have a significant positive impact upon Chatham.
Bishop James said: “It is my fervent hope that the Magpie Centre will be a hub for the community, bringing people together from all walks of life for many years to come.
“It has been quite an endeavour to get to this, but we’ve done it.”
More by this authorNicola Jordan