Situated in the heart of our village is our much loved former church. The village is in the final stages of buying this community asset to once again have an indoor space to support the local rural communities.
West Torrington is a rural village on the edge of the Lincolnshire Wolds. The Church of St. Mary has a history stretching back over almost 1000 years, before closing in 2011.
The Church is known as St. Gilbert's other church. He was the incumbent both here and in Sempringham in the 12th Century, having been gifted the vacant churches by his father, Jocelin.
One of the founders of the Oxford Movement and the Order Of Corporate Reunion, Rev. Thomas Wimberley Mossman, was the Vicar here from 1862 (when the church was restored through local subscription) and presided over the use of Catholic traditions within this Church of England Church.
It is Grade 2 listed (Historic England listing: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1147481 ), with the Churchyard Cross being both Grade 2 listed and an Scheduled Ancient Monument (Historic England listing: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1063069 , https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1013270 ) whilst the grave of Rev. Thomas Wimberley Mossman is Grade 2 listed (Historic England listing: https://historicengland.org.uk/listing/the-list/list-entry/1147491 )
Its closure in 2011 meant the village lost its last indoor community space.
Our only village indoor (ish!) space at present is a bus shelter, unfortunately without a timetabled bus service anymore.
We need to #SaveOurSpace. The Church was placed on the market in September 2020 with planning permission to convert into a house. Owned by the Diocese of Lincoln and closed a decade ago, when the villagers were told it would never be converted into a house.
The village has always harboured the dream of being able to get our last public building back to use as a community and heritage setting. Unfortunately residential planning permission was applied for without re-consulting the village, as we would have told the Diocese that we wanted to purchase it and were in the early stages of organising as a village to support this aim. The loss of the church building from the literal centre of our village would have been devastating to us.
However, following positive discussions with both the Diocese of Lincoln and the Church Commissioners explaining the villages needs, skills and commitment to the project, we submitted a tender in November 2020 and were delighted to discover in February 2021 that our offer had been accepted.
West Torrington Community & Heritage Action began its life as an an unincorporated association, that arose as a result of Parish Meetings about the situation. Once we found out our bid had been successful we converted into to a Community Infrastructure Organisation (CIO). This is a form of registered Charity that can hold property for the public benefit.
We need this space back to support our community, tackle rural isolation, provide educational & heritage opportunities, hold events & services, create a museum to tell the story of the village and the church, and run a community shop and cafe. In addition, we'd encourage third party providers to support all of the above aims, by making sure the church is a welcoming and flexible space whose use can be maximised for the benefit of the community both near and far.
We were granted Planning Permission and Listed Building Consent for the conversion to a community & heritage hub in January 2022. We are currently awaiting the conclusion of the conveyancing process for the charity to complete the purchase and then we can move onto the bit that we've all been waiting for - securing this vital rural site for the community for the next 1000 years.
We've had some fantastic pledges of support. The video we've included here has been created by some of the villagers to help explain what the Church means to us and why we want it to be our community hub.
If you’d like to discuss any of this with some of the Trustees, please don’t hesitate to either send us an email or come and have a chat with us - we are always happy to have an excuse to get some biscuits out and the kettle on to talk about the project!
The North side of the Church