Monastery turned top music venue needs £2m for future

Oxford Mail: From left, Canon Robin Ward, development adviser Matthew Butler and bursar Michele Smith From left, Canon Robin Ward, development adviser Matthew Butler and bursar Michele Smith

A FORMER monastery church which is now one of Oxford’s music venues needs a £2m revamp.

Grade I listed St John the Evangelist Church in Iffley Road is now attracting major classical artists and the occasional jazz legend.

The church was built in 1894 for the Cowley Fathers, the very first Anglican monks, and features painted ceilings and stained glass.

With audiences looking forward to hearing classical performers Harry Christophers and The Sixteen, pianist Jenny Lin and jazz great Fred Hirsch, the venue still needs major repair work.

Supporters need to raise about £2m to conserve the newly-opened concert venue and repair a roof.

Development adviser Matthew Butler said: “It seemed to us important that people get to see the potential of the building, open the place up and get it being used.

“The response both from Oxford’s music community and artists outside the area has been fantastic.”

The church and monastic buildings are part of St Stephen’s House, a permanent private hall of Oxford University, which is involved in training Church of England ministers.

Canon Robin Ward, principal of St Stephen’s House, said: “Although thousands of people travel past on their way to work or to the University Sports Ground, few have ever visited. The church is one of the great undiscovered jewels of Oxford.

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“It seemed to us we could meet an important need in Oxford for a mid-sized concert venue that would in turn help us raise the money we require.

“Now we are faced with finding £2m to conserve the building, one of three chapels we own.”

Bursar Michele Smith said: “The church will still remain a college chapel and regular worship takes place there every week. But we wanted to share it with the city of Oxford. What we now have is a proper performance space for 400 to 500 people right in the heart of Oxford for local and international performers to stage concerts and arts events.”

So far £350,000 has been raised, and donations have come in from the Wolfson Foundation, the Garfield Weston Foundation and The Pilgrim Trust, which funded the conservation of the painted ceiling under the tower.

Ms Smith said: “What we desperately need next is the funding to replace the lead roofs on either side of the main roof, to replace gutters and downpipes, to repair stonework and windows.

“We would also like to restore the rest of the beautiful painted ceilings and restore the organ.”

Over the past year, about 50 musical events have been held there.

HISTORICAL BUILDING

  • 1859: A new parish  created out of St James Cowley and St Clements.
  • 1866: The Society of St John the Evangelist constituted and placed under the care of the Bishop of Oxford.
  • 1894: The Church of St John the Evangelist built for the Cowley Fathers.
  • 1902: The church tower is completed.
  • 1954: Flag on church tower used to measure wind as Roger Bannister prepares to run first sub four-minute mile.
  • 2011: New era as concert venue begins with Helen and Douglas House “Light up a Life” event.

Comments (1)

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2:57am Sat 17 Nov 12

Myron Blatz says...

Think the landlord of the building and those who use the facility should pay for repairs.
Think the landlord of the building and those who use the facility should pay for repairs. Myron Blatz
  • Score: 0

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