When historic Kent church will re-open as huge restoration project underway

St John's Church
The church will have a number of new features when it re-opens including event spaces and a café -Credit:Google Maps

A huge multi-million pound restoration project of an historic Medway church is now underway. In September 2023, it was announced that St John’s Church in Chatham had been awarded £2.3 million from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for the site’s refurbishment.

Prior to this, the Grade-II listed landmark had also received an injection of £1 million thanks to the Government-led Future High Streets Fund. This comes as part of Medway Council’s plans to revamp Chatham town centre through multiple projects.

Such projects include improving The Paddock area, creating a healthy living centre and innovation hub at the Pentagon Shopping Centre, refurbishing the Brook Theatre and repurposing the former Debenhams site. St John’s Church had been closed for nearly 25 years when it finally re-opened to the public in 2021, but has now had to close its doors once again as the refurbishments take place.

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The aim of the project is to restore St John’s Church as a place of worship in Medway, as well as creating new community facilities within the landmark. Plans for the site detail the addition of new spaces for events and classes, meeting spaces for businesses and the creation of a café.

Construction of the site commenced in April and it is planned that St John’s will re-open in Autumn 2025. While the site is closed for these renovations, the church’s full programme of events, activities and worship will be held at Emmaus Christian Centre on Clover Street in Chatham.

St John's Church in Chatham
£2.3 million has been awarded to St John's Church to restore the site as a place of worship in Chatham -Credit:Medway Council

The St John’s team has said: “We are so grateful to the National Lottery Heritage Fund who along with the Future High Streets Fund (through Medway Council) and other generous funders are enabling our essential building works. We look forward to keeping you updated on the project over the coming weeks and months.”

The church itself dates back over 200 years, having been built in the early 19th century using money set aside by the government of 1818 in thanksgiving to God for victory at the Battle of Waterloo. In 1997 the site was closed and remained disused for over two decades before it was re-opened in April 2021 thanks to the support of partner organisations and individuals.

How the church could look once the revamp is completed.
The church is set to re-open in autumn 2025. This image shows how the church could look once the restoration is completed. -Credit:Medway Council

A number of considerable improvements had been made ahead of this re-opening, including the creation of a disabled access toilet and kitchenette. The church had also suffered a bad water leak in 2020 amid the pandemic, which required critical repairs to the timbers and plaster work, made possible thanks to assistance from Historic England and funding from the government’s Cultural Recovery Fund.

The St John’s team added: “We are continuing to work hard to make best use of the beautiful space and are on a journey to fully restoring the building. St John’s Chatham is committed to connecting with the local community and to seeing this building fulfil its purpose as a beacon of light, place of worship and centre of welcome for those in Chatham and further afield.”

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