SUPPORTERS gathered in a tiny wayfarers’ church on the South Downs to celebrate its re-opening.
Major refurbishment works, costing £380,000, were completed at St Botolph’s Church, in Annington Road, Botolphs, by the Churches Conservation Trust.
The building had been closed for a number of months for vital conservation and repair work, which included the complete re-roofing, extensive masonry work and re-wiring.
A special re-opening event was organised by the trust last Saturday to mark the end of the first phase of works.
Gabriella Misuriello, the trust’s conservation manager, said: “The first priority for us was to put the church back into a good state of repair and make it safe to open.
“It is so beautiful to see, after all the work that’s been going on, the community back inside. It’s the most gratifying feeling.
“This is the first phase. There’s still work to be done.”
Peter Aiers, the trust’s south east director, added: “Today is a great day. It’s a really good celebration for the work we have done so far. We really want to make everyone welcome because it’s your church. This building is open to the public.”
Listed as one of Britain’s 500 holiest places, the church is part of the 3bs Parish of Upper Beeding, Bramber and Botolphs but came under the wing of the trust in April last year.
The Rev John Challis said: “This is a first for me, to actually pass on over a church into the hands of another body to look after.
“For me, we are a partnership. We share looking after this church. I care passionately for my building and my people. The congregation and the people are the church. We will continue to care for and love this building along with the CCT.”
St Botolph is the patron saint of wayfarers and the church receives many visitors walking the South Downs Way.
Fiona Windsor, archdeacon of Horsham, said: “How fabulous is this? I was sat here thinking how many hundreds of years this church has been available for prayer and worship.
“This building is open for everyone, those who have faith, those who have no faith and those who have a different faith and that’s fantastic. It’s far more than a building, it’s about the community and enabling it to grow.”
Caring for the church day-to-day are the Friends of St Botolph’s Church, and tours are available.
Chairman Rodney Gunner said: “It’s great to see so many people here today. It’s great to know the church is weatherproof and stable. Like all churches and homes, it needs to be maintained. So just because this work’s been done you can’t just stop.”