The project to restore and renew the historically significant mediaeval St Mary’s Church in the heart of Totnes has received a £100,000 Lotto boost.

The National Lottery Heritage Fund (NLHF) grant has been awarded to help progress the development plans leading to an application for a full Lotto grant at a later date.

John Birch, chairman of the Totnes Heritage Trust, which is working in partnership with the Totnes with Bridgetown Parochial Church Council to bring the project to fruition, said: “We’re delighted we’ve received this support thanks to National Lottery players.

John Birch (.)

“Our proposed activities have over 20 partners in place and the grant will enable us to connect the community socially, economically and culturally.

“People need a place on this scale and a reason to come together: our project provides both as well as boosting the high street and encouraging more tourists to Totnes which will benefit the town’s economy.”

The church in the High Street needs a new floor to replace the Victorian one which is collapsing and dangerous, a new and improved sustainable heating system, flexible seating options so the building can be used for a wide range of community activities and the introduction of toilets which are currently lacking.

St Mary’s Church, Totnes (Ginny Ware)

Totnes Team Rector, Rev Jim Barlow, said: “I am so delighted that this award has been made.

“It is a big step towards the reordering of this wonderful and much loved church and the NLHF development funding will give the necessary momentum to secure the full funding to deliver the main phase of the work.”

Rev Jim Barlow (.)

One of the project’s main aims is to provide a place for activities which will engage both residents and visitors with the town’s rich heritage.

These will include volunteering opportunities such as working with the less advantaged, and guided heritage walks for all ages and abilities.

The project hopes to encourage local people to take an active role in recognising and caring for Totnes’ rich heritage by involving young people in documenting and filming the building project; creating a churchyard environmental project involving a cross section of the community; encouraging community groups to work with schools on heritage outreach projects; and hosting courses and activities for the disadvantaged with a view to helping with employability.

Other ideas include heritage engagement activities for families during school holiday; a range of activities for all ages and abilities including guided heritage walks, photographic exhibitions and art sessions; and involving older members of the community in heritage and art projects

John added: “St Mary’s Totnes is a Grade I Listed building that has been central to the town, physically and socially, for hundreds of years.

“Now, thanks to National Lottery players, its renewal will enable more people than ever to use this wonderful building.”