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All Saints' Church renovation project secures Lottery funding

All Saints’ Church has received a £498,300 grant from The National Lottery Heritage Fund for its Tower of Strength project which will see the 13th C building repaired and improved.

The parish of Brightlingsea and Friends of All Saints’ will together oversee an extensive project that will see the Tudor tower repaired – so that it can re-opened to the public – and a much-needed indoor toilet and kitchenette added to make the building better able to host a wide range of music, arts, crafts and other community events and activities.

With the two-year building project, scheduled to start in March 2022, there's also an ambitious activity programme planned to connect the church and churchyard – the largest in southern England – with a wider range of people of different ages and abilities.

There will be a special focus on the church's maritime history, with opportunities to learn more about the unique tiles that record the deaths at sea of Brightlingsea residents.  Once the 97ft-high Tudor tower is made safe, visitors will be able to retrace the steps of the boy who used to light a beacon on top of the tower to guide sailors safely back to Brightlingsea on stormy nights.

Youth activities planned include bat watching and star gazing, while volunteers will have the chance to learn new skills and the capital works programme will offer employment prospects.

In a statement, the project group said: "This project will allow us to unlock the door to the past and take us to the future. With local support from across the town giving us ideas for future events and activities, and the much-needed financial boost from The National Lottery Heritage Fund – young or old, local or out of town tourist, volunteer or casual visitor, all will find a comfortable, relaxing and interesting welcome at All Saints’ Church."

Project group chair Elizabeth Foss-Smith,  said the grant award was the culmination of five years' effort. "It has been a lot of work and probably more than we realised," she said. The group benefited from professional help with the funding application after securing a development grant two years ago, but has had to tackle a huge amount of work – including liaising with around 50 local organisations – to ensure that the community is behind the plans.

Mrs Foss-Smith added: "We are thrilled by the support we've had from the local community. "The church really does mean a great deal to many people in the town, whether or not they are churchgoers. We're lucky to have such an iconic building in the town."

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