Milestone for Higham Ferrers church that refused to die

The Hope Methodist Church plans to re-open in June 2021

The long-term project to redevelop a landmark church in the heart of Higham Ferrers has reached a milestone on its journey of rebirth.

Hope Methodist Church in High Street had been mothballed 14 years ago and the congregation transplanted to nearby Rushden.

Vandalised and unused it was decided by the Higham worshippers to fundraise and redevelop the early-Edwardian building.

Moving back onto the site in July 2016 into a temporary modular unit, a committee began the task of raising the £917,000 needed.

Rev Lesley Dinham, Superintendent Minister, said: "We are getting excited. People have said it would never happen in their lifetime. It really is the church that refused to die.

"On arrival to the Nene Valley Circuit as Superintendent Minister in September 2019, and my appointment as Minister to Hope Methodist Church, my first impression of this church was that here was a congregation who were 100 per cent committed to the cause of redeveloping what looked to be a ruin of a church in the middle of Higham Ferrers.

"On closer inspection of the church building inside, I was awed by its grandeur as to what it has been and excited concerning the potential as to what it could be to the glory of God."

l-r Pip Kirk (site manager), John Hardy (project co-ordinator), Rev Lesley Dinham and Chris Marshman

The redevelopment project has been ongoing for a number of years with a dedicated team working to raise money with events, gift days and applying for grants.

Rev Dinham said: "When I arrived, I was told that their goal always seemed to be just out of their reach and of course the longer time it was taking to get the funds together, the more the costs estimate was going up but, the congregation faithfully believe that this is the right thing to do for the church and for the community so, they’ve carried on despite many hiccups and setbacks.

"Even Covid-19 hasn’t stopped their fundraising and grant raising committees meeting together on Zoom to keep up the momentum of reaching towards their goal."

Built in 1902-3 by Northampton architect Thomas Dyer the Hope Methodist Church, although not listed, is described as a building of merit in East Northamptonshire Council's own Conservation Area Appraisal.

How the church looked before

Helped by funding from the Nene Valley Methodist Circuit the church was given enough money to begin the work and reach 80 per cent of the total required.

After tenders were sent out, building contractors appointed, permissions sought and granted the work has now begun.

Mr Pip Kirk, who was married in the church 51 years ago to wife Chris and had a 68-year connection to the church, has been appointed site manager.

He said: "I'm pleased to see it happen. Some people thought it would never happen but people have come together."

Hope Methodist Church in High Street

Project co-ordinatotor, John Hardy, who has worshipped at the church for nearly 50 years, said: "That's the really exciting thing. People are really working together to make it happen."

Contractors are on site for phase one of the project - the ground floor - and have already put down a new concrete floor which will contain a meeting room, hall, toilets and a kitchen as well as a lift that will serve the first floor.

Before Covid struck, 18 community groups had been using the temporary building for their activities and it is hoped that in June, when the work on phase one is complete they will be able to use the new flexible space.

Phase two will see a first floor hall being constructed dedicated for use by the church congregation.

Senior church steward, Chris Marshman, said: "It's just wonderful to see it come into fruition. It will be nice to relax a bit afte all this fundraising.

The fundraising thermometer outside the church has only £75,000 left until it reaches its target.

Inside the church

Rev Dinham said: "For the Church community it’s exciting and as their Minister, I truly believe they will reach their target of £917,000."

For further information about Hope Methodist Church visit their website by clicking here.