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St Stephen’s re-opens its doors marking nine years of successful fund-raising.

St Stephen’s re-opens its doors marking nine years of successful fund-raising. photo
Caption:St Stephen's Church in central Exeter

17 July 2012

The Parish of Central Exeter will be re-opening St Stephen’s church to the public on Thursday 19 July 2012, after eighteen months of closure for renovation.

This major internal renovation was undertaken after major repairs and restoration to the roof and tower were completed in 2009. The total project has cost just over £1.5 million, the money for which has now been successfully raised.

Amongst other improvements, the St Stephen’s project has provided:

• extensive repair and restoration of roof, tower and walls
• new flooring, heating and lighting
• the re-building of a gallery demolished in the early nineteenth century
• the 14th century Bow restored to its original design and including a history information centre
• a serving area replacing on outdated kitchen
• facilities for performances, concerts and exhibitions
• full wheelchair access through refurbished entrance area into the main body of the church
• modern seating and other furnishings

The church is situated in a prime position along Exeter’s busy High Street. This key location means it is heavily used by local charities to raise funds and awareness of their work through coffee mornings and exhibitions.

Churchwarden Keith Walton said: ‘Whilst we are pleased that we have completely transformed the inside of our church, the building is only a means to the end. The whole point of the St Stephen’s project is to develop our mission through the use of the church by the community in Exeter City Centre. In many ways the project is only just starting as we seek to ensure that best use is made of our facilities, by others as much as ourselves.’

St Stephen’s church has stood in the centre of Exeter for a thousand years. It has survived rebellion, siege, pestilence and the blitz. History has flowed past its doors but the building has remained a constant witness to the Christian faith, and quietly offered a breathing space for those passing by.

The parish is grateful to all those who have helped to fund this project. The principal donors have been Viridor Credits (who have provided just over half the total sum), English Heritage (who funded the restoration of the historic roof and tower, the Heritage Lottery Fund (who have made possible the history information centre within the church), and the National Churches Trust.

The parish itself has raised over £200,000 through donations and seventy six fund-raising events, mainly concerts. Bob Snowden, Project Director, said: ‘We are truly grateful for all those who have given grants and made donations, but for me the best result has been that over £47,500 has been raised through public collecting boxes outside the church. This has demonstrated how much the people of Exeter want to have an active church in the City Centre, and believe that there is a real need to promote spiritual values amongst the busyness of the High Street."

St Stephen’s is one of five medieval churches maintained by the Parish of Central Exeter.

In addition to the re-opening celebrations, the church will be formally re-dedicated on Tuesday 4 September 2012 by Bishop Bob (Bishop of Crediton) and five other bishops who have been associated with St Stephens and the Parish of Central Exeter in attendance.

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