St Philip’s, Mill Road

Refurbishment and accessibility project

How much difference changing the face of a building can make! Dating from 1901, St Philip’s was extended in the 1970s with an entrance space, kitchen and toilets. However, the result was drab, the windows glazed with yellow obscured glass, and the building looked closed. Even when there was something exciting going on inside you wouldn’t know it from outside! This project involved the gutting of the building and the creation of a café with catering kitchen, WCs, church office, together with five new rooms upstairs available for rent and for church use. The project was completed in 2012.

How much difference changing the face of a building can make!

The church allows for a phased engagement with its community, doing this in three stages. First, there is a clear point of entry, and a permeable frontage with generous views in from the busy Mill Road, and the new café creates a threshold space where anyone is welcome to come in for a coffee or light meal. Second, two sets of sliding folding doors can be closed to create a space for mid-sized meetings, a parents and toddlers group, etc. Third, there is the worship space of the church itself, which is also used for bigger community events. The buidling is thus much easier to enter, and by lowering the threshold of engagement the church is better able to engage with its community.

The cafe has proved very popular, and helps animate the building throughout the week, not just for a couple of hours on a Sunday. The central part of the building now allows the church the flexibility to create a more contained and intimate space, or to expand it for larger services. Most of the time the sliding folding doors stand open, allowing a flow of space from the cafe into the church, and views all the way from the road up to the chancel. The project included providing a new AV installation for use in services and for community events, such as screening the World Cup football. In these ways, the building is now more in balance with the life of the church, and speaks clearly of the welcome that is offered.

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