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Tenterden: St Mildred's Church in £2.2m transformation bid

A major £2.2m scheme to transform St Mildred's church involves replacing the pews with removable seating.

The work is intended to future-proof the historic 12th century building and will ensure that the Nave offers a vast space for concerts, exhibitions and conferences, drawing in people from the wider community.

Martin Vink is chairman of St Mildred’s The Big Picture Group, who have been working alongside specialist church architects JBKS to re-imagine the historic building.

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The extension at the rear of St Mildred's
The extension at the rear of St Mildred's

He said: "St Mildred's can provide a new cultural, arts and entertainment centre in Tenterden and still remain a vibrant and thriving church."

An extension to the church would house a robing room for clergy, five toilets with disabled and baby changing facilities and storage space.

A heritage centre is planned, run in conjunction with Tenterden Museum, with a multi-purpose room above, accessed by stairs, or the lift. The church would have full disabled access throughout.

A view down the length of church from the altar
A view down the length of church from the altar

The re-configuration requires the Lady Chapel to be moved but a new memorial chapel would incorporate it, with the possible addition of a new war memorial, the church organ also needs to be relocated.

Sleek design proposals show the extensive use of glass to allow light to flow freely, including a new glass-fronted gallery area, which would be available for exhibitions and displays, while glass doors and screens would surround the war memorial.

Work would be undertaken to maintain and enhance the historic fabric of the church, including keeping the stained glass windows in optimum condition.

A kitchen is to be added, plus new lighting throughout, while the existing nave floor, a mixture of parquet, carpet and tiles, would be replaced with ceramic or stone tiles, complete with underfloor heating system.

West end of the church with new balcony and kitchen
West end of the church with new balcony and kitchen

St Mildred's vicar Canon Lindsay Hammond said: "I am so excited and passionate about the plans for St Mildred's. The development of the church will give the worshipping community space to breathe, to bring into the church so many activities, especially those which involve children and young people."

"A re-ordered St Mildred's will also be a fantastic gift to the town, enriching the life of the wider community with a wonderful building."

"Groups and organisations will be able to use St Mildred's for all kinds of events: concerts, exhibitions, performances, receptions, and much more besides."

He continued: "All this will co-exist with the worship and quiet prayer that has been offered to God in St Mildred's for hundreds of years."

Mr Vink said the Parochial Church Council, (PCC), which is responsible for raising the £2.2m needed for the transformation, is bidding for a £750,000 grant from the Tenterden Town Council.

The church is also making applications to the Arts Council, the Heritage Lottery Fund, Ashford Borough Council (ABC) among a range of organisations, while a fundraising campaign would seek to enlist the support of the congregation, residents and businesses in the town.

Canon Hammond said: "I know that the amount of money we are asking for (£750,000) is a lot but we do need it to show to other grant-making bodies that we have the support of the local community.

"And think about what the town will be getting for little more than the price of a large house on the Church View development - a beautifully appointed church which will serve Tenterden and its people for decades to come."

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