This month’s contribution comes from Angela Swan, Grants Officer for the Listed Places of Worship: Roof Repair Fund administered by the National Heritage Memorial Fund.
Baxter United Reformed Church, a Grade II listed building is located at the heart of Kidderminster town centre. It is named after the influential Puritan preacher Richard Baxter (1615 – 1691), who lived and worked in Kidderminster between 1641 and 1661. Formally a part of the Congregational Church, Baxter became a United Reformed Church when Congregational and Presbyterian churches united in 1972.
The current building was erected in 1884/85 and is the fourth building on the site and is in the early decorated Gothic style of concrete faced with red sandstone and Boxgrove Bath stone dressing, with a spire 140 feet tall.
The church contains some hidden gems. The stained glass windows are stunning and include ‘Charity’ ministering to children and extracts from Baxter’s book “Saints Everlasting Rest”. They were created as a memorial to the influential Adam family from Kidderminster. The pipe organ is also impressive; it is ‘three manual’ instrument installed by Walker and Sons. There are also a couple of distinctive portraits of Richard Baxter, which are in need of conservation, and the only surviving artefact belonging to him in the church is the wooden communion table which is in good condition.
The church is open to the public 260 days a year and is an active community hub and offers a regular Community Lunch, a Foodbank for the most vulnerable, a Job Club that has successfully enabled people to find work. It also hosts a choral group, an award winning youth choir and a Zumba Class!
Baxter United Reformed Church has been successful in receiving an award from the Listed Places of Worship: Roof Repair Fund to address the extensive decay to many parts of the roof which have severely damaged the building for many years. The repair project will focus on the west end of the sanctuary, drainage from the sanctuary roof, drainage from the gutters around the tower, the replacement of inadequate cast iron rainwater disposal components, hoppers and catch pits, and rectifying the consequent damage to internal finishes due to water ingress.
At the west end is an access bridge spanning between the sanctuary roof and the bell opening. This is a curious and improvised detail which is failing and causing severe decay to the interior and permission has been granted to remove it and reinstate the roof and louvers. Repairs start the end of July and will be finished by the end of 2017.
This money is part of a wider funding package of £22.9million to 401 historic places of worship across the UK. The Fund was launched by the Chancellor in his Autumn Statement in December 2014 and the funding package has now seen a total of 903 places of worship across the UK receive a share of £55million. The Fund is administered by the National Heritage Memorial Fund (NHMF) on behalf of the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS).