Residents of Church Square were invited to a meeting on Saturday, July 17 following the announcement two weeks ago that the Methodist church will be leaving their current building later in the year.
The meeting, which took place inside the sun filled church, was led by local residents Mike Eve and Stuart Harland, both of whom have a successful track record in creating new uses for old buildings through their work in getting the Kino built on Lion Street.
The purpose of the meeting was to gauge possible future uses for the church. The meeting gave an opportunity for local residents to explore together what might happen to the church building in the future. The building is in a conservation area but it is not listed, so it could, subject to planning permission, be converted into residential accommodation.
There was a general agreement among the group that keeping the building open for a community use was a preferred option. A number of ideas were floated which might happen in the future, such as a relocation of the Rye Castle Museum from East Street or a multi-purpose arts venue for book readings, music and talks. Any future use for the building would be subject to the national Methodist church and national custodian trustee policies and practice.
The proposed relocation of the museum was the most discussed potential use. While the challenges in doing so would be significant, a key benefit would be to bring together the two parts of the museum for the first time which, with the Gun Garden, would create an exciting historic quarter at this popular visitor spot. There may also be the possibility of combining this with the town model to create a “heritage hub”.
Stuart and Mike stressed that work needed to be done to consider all the ideas floated at the meeting and any other thoughts from those living closest to the church. With regard to the specific proposal that the East Street part of the museum be moved to the church building, Stuart and Mike hoped the museum association directors would actively pursue the proposal in detail and that they would be ready to assist, if the association directors thought it necessary.
The attendees also listened to a touching speech from Marilyn Martin, who has been attending Methodist services at the church since she was a baby. She spoke on behalf of the congregation by saying that their preferred option would be that the building would remain in community use.
While the final service in the building will take place on the last Sunday in September, Marilyn stressed that services will continue, as they have since 1756, and will take place at St Mary’s Centre beginning on the first Sunday in October.
If you would like to get involved in exploring future potential uses for the building for community use, please email Stuart Harland (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Mike Eve (email@example.com) to be kept up to date and invited to any subsequent meetings.
Image Credits: Kevin McCarthy .