Southend’s phoenix from the flames
Dozens of schoolchildren were on hand to mark the restoration of a derelict chapel which came within a whisker of being consigned to the annals of history.
Council officials were left glum-faced in 2008 when their bid for BIG Lottery funding to rebuild the former Prittlewell Chapel in North Road, Southend, was rejected. And the fate of the historic chapel looked to be sealed when what remained of the ramshackle building was almost totally gutted in a fire attack by vandals in November 2009.
Southend-on-Sea Borough Council appointed a firm of contractors to oversee the demolition process which would sound the chapel’s death knell. But in a desperate last fling of the dice they went back to the BIG Lottery to see if there was the slightest hope of any funding which might save it for posterity.
And their persistence paid off when they learned that one of the other projects which had pipped them to the post in the original funding round was no longer going ahead. BIG Lottery officials had been scouring their reserve list of worthy projects, trying to work out who they should re-allocate the money to.
Luckily for Southend Council its officers stuck their heads above the parapet at just the right time and now the building’s future is secure.
Eighteen months on from the devastating fire the chapel has now been lovingly restored using as many of the original materials which survived as possible.
It has now been handed over to Southend Association for Voluntary Services which will oversee its use as two small office units for hire by social enterprises and local voluntary organisations.
Children from Westborough School in Southend looked at the history of the disused chapel as part of a history project and helped create a tile montage for the reception area. They were also on hand to help Council parks staff plant dozens of shrubs and plants in two beds at the front of the rejuvenated building at its recent open day.
The £1,020,427 project was funded via a £998,715 Community Assets Grant from the BIG Lottery and £21,712 from the Southend Economic Participation Programme (via the East of England Development Agency).
The building lay empty for approximately 60 years and was subjected to vandalism, arson, and the elements. It has been lovingly restored and the offices feature the latest in energy efficient technology including photo-voltaic cells, rainwater harvesting and an air source heat pump connected to under floor heating, making it Southend-on-Sea Borough Council’s most efficient building.
The original roof slates cover the spire and the original Whitechapel Bell dating back to 1880 has been restored to the bell house enclosure.
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