Work begins on church loos

A digital impression of the new church toilets

A digital impression of the new church toilets - Credit: Archant

Work is now underway on a £150,000 project to give Sidmouth Parish Church congregation members and visitors somewhere to spend a penny.

Church leaders have thanked everyone who contributed to the project for toilets, which could see the ‘first class’ facilities open as soon as February.

Construction at the 155-year-old building follows a six-figure fundraising bid fulfilled through donations, grants and events across the community run by those who will benefit.

Project co-ordinator Philip Hughes said: “While the building has been updated in many ways – the current heating, lighting and sound systems are all recent installations – adding toilets has proved a bigger challenge.”

After looking at several options, plans were drawn up three years ago to site the loos in the church’s north-west corner, with access through a new doorway from the north aisle.

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Philip hopes that, in time, the extension – built with matching stone and lancet windows – will blend with the original building.

He said: “Following completion of the plan, permissions have been sought, estimates made, grants applied for, an appeal launched, fundraising activities held – and, of course, prices have risen, increasing the challenge.

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“Finally, the target of £150,000 was achieved and building is now underway.”

The project met its initial £80,000 quote in a matter of months, but ‘rocketing’ construction costs saw the final target total almost double.

They ploughed on, applying for grants, requesting donations and organising open gardens events, concerts, quizzes and a silent auction.

The fundraisers were just shy of their target when a mystery donor offered to meet the £13,500 shortfall.

Grants, some in five figures, were awarded by the Rank Foundation, the Laing Trust and the Edwin and Joyce Hill Charitable Trust.

“The rector, churchwardens and all involved with the project send their sincere thanks to all who have contributed,” added Philip.

Building firm Bagwells began work last week with the digging of a new drain. This has required the closure of the footpath and church leaders have apologised walkers for any inconvenience.

The outer shell should be ready by the onset of winter, with internal fittings and decoration scheduled for completion by February.

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