St Johns Church, Hoxton

St John's Church, Hoxton, new uses for a late Georgian church - a catalyst for uplifting a community.
©English Heritage

Region: London

Local Authority: Hackney

Owner Type: Religious Organisation

Funding Body: EH; HLF

Year of Intervention: 1996 - 2000

Summary: St John's Church, Hoxton- New users for late Georgian church as a catalyst for uplifting a community through the aid of regeneration funding.

Description: Hoxton is one of the most deprived areas in the country with high rates of long-term unemployment, complex social issues and poor-quality housing creating a profoundly deprived environment. At the heart of the area is St John the Baptist church, a grade II Commissioner’s church designed by Francis Edwards in 1824 and set in an island churchyard surrounded by the original cast iron railings.
Issue: In 1996 St John’s church was in a very poor condition with a leaking roof, no heating and a declining congregation. The ceiling is decorated with striking and unusual early-20th-century paintings, which urgently required restoration. This was only practical if the roof and rain gutters were repaired at the same time.
Strategy: English Heritage provided a grant of £515,000 towards these works, providing the church with a weather-tight roof and restored ceiling paintings. The process also encouraged the church community to think in a positive and creative way about future community uses for the building and how they could be delivered. The parish, Hackney Archdeaconry advisers and English Heritage worked together to produce a scheme which would serve local needs, including the following features: 1) ‘Newpin’, a nursery school and family crisis centre formed behind new timber screens under the west gallery. 2) A community café created in a central space within the reused crypt. 3) An employment project (ACCESS) was provided with space in the crypt for training and advice services for long-term unemployed people. 4) The charity ABILITY established a fitness centre in the remainder of the crypt to meet the exercise and health needs of the elderly, disabled and able-bodied people.
Outcome: The development and implementation of this project began in 1996 and was substantially completed by 2000. The total project cost was £2 million, including £515,000 English Heritage grant funding and £815,000 from HLF. The three projects produced 14 jobs and the ACCESS employment project now places 20-25 unemployed people in jobs every month. The driving force behind this project was the belief that an historic and much-loved local landmark could become a beacon for hope and regeneration. This was seen both in a symbolic sense and in the tangible form of community projects being established within the church, restoring life and usefulness to a previously neglected building. There was little point in simply restoring the building, even presuming funding was forthcoming, if under-use and neglect would soon return the church to a poor state. Reinventing the use of the church to meet current needs not only provided a sustainable function but also helped to access sustainable regeneration funding.

Keywords: Regeneration, Repair, Reconstruction & Restoration, Social Inclusion & Access

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