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East Anglia Future 50

Businesses asked to step up to revive an Anglo Saxon church

PUBLISHED: 13:40 31 July 2018 | UPDATED: 13:40 31 July 2018

St Martins south-side. Picture: Inkpen Downie

St Martins south-side. Picture: Inkpen Downie

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A architect firm is supporting an appeal to breathe new life into an ancient building in Colchester.

St Martins tower. Picture: Inkpen DownieSt Martins tower. Picture: Inkpen Downie

Inkpen Downie Chartered Architects have worked on several churches, including an extension to Clare Priory, and were keen to get involved in the Orthodox Church appeal to buy St Martin’s Church in West Stockwell Street, Colchester.

The Orthodox congregation in Colchester has outgrown their current place of worship at St Helen’s Chapel in Maidenburgh Street.

St Martin’s has been a place of worship since the Anglo Saxon era, or even possibly Roman times, and boasts a large truncated tower.

Many reused Roman bricks may be seen in its exterior, and its treasures include a wagon roof, Jacobean woodwork and a green man carving.

3D design images of St Martins Church. Picture: Inkpen Downie3D design images of St Martins Church. Picture: Inkpen Downie

The church was made redundant in 1957 and has been under the care of the Churches Conservation Trust since 1996.

Inkpen Downie, whic his based in Balkern Passage, Colchester, voluntarily created an image of what St Martin’s could look like in the future for the Appeal’s website and brochure to help attract support.

They have also offered to assist initially in achieving planning permission and listed building consent.

A total of £65,000 has already been raised, and the members of Essex Chambers of Commerce are hoping other local businesses will support the St Martin’s Orthodox Church Appeal to raise £200,000 in total to pay for the building, security, heating installations and other facilities.

Ben Downie of Inkpen Downie. Picture: Inkpen DownieBen Downie of Inkpen Downie. Picture: Inkpen Downie

St Martin’s is currently looked after by the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) which has said 80 per cent of the money must be raised before they will fully commit to selling St Martin’s to the Orthodox Church.

One of the director of Inkpen Downie, Ben Downie, said: “St Martin’s has challenges, as any historic building does, but I am confident that it will, once again, become a focal point of the town - as it has been since the days of the Siege when it was used as a refuge.”

Mr Downie has been in Colchester for over 30 years, initially working alongside his father.

“I have seen buildings evolve and, in some cases, degrade over time,” he said. “Experience shows that a project like this depends on grant funding or finance supplied by a number of committed individuals.”

The Parish Priest, Father Alexander Haig said: “We’re all feeling excited at the prospect of buying St Martin’s church. The present congregation love worshipping at St Helen’s which is probably one the oldest places of worship in use in Britain, but we shan’t grow anymore unless we get bigger premises.”

For full details about the appeal visit: https://orthodoxcolchesterappeal.org.uk/a-wonderful-opportunity/

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