St James’s United Reformed Church Centre

St James’s Church, Alnwick
©John Spence

Unitary Authority: Northumberland

Funding Body: United Reformed Church/private sector/grant giving bodies

Year of Intervention: 2008

Summary: Redevelopment of St James’s United Reformed Church in Alnwick, Northumberland, to provide affordable rural housing.


Alnwick is a small market town in North Northumberland, with a population of over 30,000.  It is considered to be the most picturesque market town in Northumberland.  The Victorian church hall is set within the grounds of the grade II listed St James Church and within the Alnwick Conservation Area.

Issue: The Grade II listed St James Church and its hall were in urgent need of renovation, but redevelopment costs were estimated at £1 million.  The congregation were also looking for a way to make a positive contribution to the wider community.  Like most rural areas, Alnwick suffered from an under-supply of affordable housing.
Strategy: A local developer offered to purchase the hall, in partnership with the local housing association, in order to provide its quota share of nine affordable housing units on a nearby open-market development.  The Charity Commission and local planners agreed the plan.  The proceeds of the sale amounted to 50% of the total redevelopment cost, with the remainder being obtained from grant-giving bodies and fund raising by the congregation.

The new centre opened in May 2008 and hosts a place of worship adapted for the needs of a 21st century congregation, with a large hall, a conference/meeting room and a fully equipped kitchen.

In addition, the project represents the successful use of an historic building to provide much-needed affordable rural housing in a sensitive historic context.  The scheme maintains the distinctive local streetscape and the original features of the hall, including stained glass windows.

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For further details see Faith in Affordable Housing - a practical guide to using church land and property for affordable housing


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