An exciting £1.5m project to make Melton’s parish church fit for the 21st Century is hoped to start within a year.
The overriding aim of the ambitious re-ordering project is to make the Grade I listed St Mary’s, arguably the finest church in the county, more welcoming and user-friendly.
Key aspects of the anticipated nine-month project include the introduction of under floor heating, new and improved lighting, an up-to-date sound system, a new servery, refurbished entrance and draught lobbies and the complete re-working of the Sir Malcolm Sargent memorial organ and console.
Churchwarden Ian Neale said the improvement plans were now virtually complete, with meetings held with the project architect to complete the final amendments.
John Craig, chairman of the project committee, said: “It’s a fantastic project which we’re very excited about.
“It has taken a long time to get to this point, which reflects the special nature of St Mary’s, but we’re now approaching a time when you can see it happening.
“St Mary’s is a very significant building and because it’s so special we have to make sure we’re moving things in the right direction. It’s amazing what we’re trying to do but we have to get approval from various church bodies at every stage before moving forward. We’ve done everything in our power to make sure there are no hold-ups so work can start early next year.
He added: “For a number of reasons the flooring of the building is going back to pre-Victorian times which, in itself, will be a huge change. There will be access to all areas of the church, with no ramps, providing open access right the way through which will be fantastic for people with disabilities.
“The lighting of the building was last done in the 1950s with fluorescent tubes. I think it was state-of-the-art back then but if you go into the church now, unless it’s a sunny day, I think it’s probably a bit gloomy. The new lighting scheme will also enable us to light different areas of the church.
“Heat retention in the building is crucial and that’s something we’ve considered. In the past we’ve provided new gas boilers which are very effective but aren’t so great if the main doors are open. It can be quite cold if you’re sat in the middle of the church.
“St Mary’s is used as a venue for lots of different activities, concerts and events so another key aspect of the project is having a modern and up-to-date sound system ensuring there will be high quality of sound wherever you go in the building.
“Another key thing is our Sir Malcolm Sargent memorial organ which is a wonderful instrument but the wiring needs replacing. We want it to be an organ that is worthy of the church.
“The new servery is also crucial. If you have lots of events in the building you want to be able to serve refreshments but the facilities we have at the moment aren’t very good.”
Congregation members have been made aware of the church having to temporarily close next year to allow building works to be carried out although no precise dates have yet been given.
Mr Craig added: “There will be some key dates next year and we’ll be keeping everyone informed. It’s a very complex project but it’s going to be superb and there will be other work to be done. Not everything will be done in that first year.”