Published: 06:00, 24 September 2021
Work to build art studios in the grounds of an ancient church has begun.
Murston All Saints Trust, the organisation which runs Murston Old Church, has confirmed building work has started to on the new Murston Heart creative community hub around the church in Stadium Way, Murston, near Sittingbourne.
The project involves restoring the medieval former church and building brand new studios with a café and community education room, while preserving the surrounding yard as a haven of greenery and wildlife.
The project also includes a heritage activities programme, which will run over the next two years. The trust has teamed up with the neighbouring Wienerberger Smeed Dean brickworks to plan a project with Sunny Bank Primary and Meadowfield Schools, which will involve their pupils working with artists to make bricks for missing sections of the churchyard wall.
This builds on events and activities that Murston Heart has run in recent years, including a First World War centenary poppy project in 2018.
The costs of the project, amounting to more than £1million, have been raised through grants from the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Swale council, Historic England and a number of charities including the Henry Oldfield Trust, the Mohn Westlake Foundation, the Wolfson Foundation and the Colyer Fergusson Charitable Trust.
John Nightingale, chairman of trustees, said: “It is wonderful to have arrived at this point after all the effort of previous years and the difficulties and delays caused by the pandemic.
“The surviving medieval chancel and surrounding churchyard are both categorised as scheduled monuments in recognition of their importance, but they have been on Historic England’s At Risk register for many years and have suffered a lot from vandalism.
“Despite this, many residents of Murston have continued to view them with great affection and it is wonderful that they now look set to have a vibrant role at the heart of the community.”
Cllr Roger Truelove, leader of Swale council, said it was “terrific news” for the borough.
He added: “It should make a real difference to the growing community of Murston and the wider town of Sittingbourne. It should be a catalyst for economic and social regeneration whilst safeguarding a much-loved heritage asset.”
Artist Sioux Peto said it was in the spring of 2010 that the idea for a creative community hub around the Old Church was first mooted.
“I wish to thank everyone who has ever been involved in this project but especially the people of Murston,” she said.
The hub is scheduled to open next summer.