The development of St Mary as a Village Community Centre

One of the major objectives the Longcot 800 has been both researching and fund raising for the development of St Mary The Virgin Church – utilising a small part of the church to create toilets, a kitchenette and in the main area, a viable space that could be used for meetings, gatherings and celebrations outside of the normal church function.

To this end, over December ’14 and January ’15 a display has been set up at the rear of the church highlighting the careful work our own Design Brief Team have created in order to be sensitive yet creative with the opportunities that will unfold once in the hands of an architect who will convert the brief into a design/model.

The brief displayed is:


Design Brief for Community facilities in St Mary’s Church

The meeting recognised that the Design Brief needed to recognise to what Purpose the Community facility might be put, what Key Requirements, in the way of new facilities, heating, lighting and communication & etc, to indicate the Structural changes that might be required.

Consideration was made of:

Church integrity

Efficient and effective facilities

Access for disabled and safety of minors

Cloakroom, toilet, kitchen and storage facilities

Brief consideration was given to the Methodist Chapel which already offers various community services and how it might be considered as part of this brief – however it was recognised that while the Chapel is close to the Church, it is on its own site and should be considered as a separate village asset and not part of this brief.

The Design Brief Team consists of:


Amanda, John, Keith, Peter & Kate.

  1. Purpose

1.1        The purpose is to facilitate various functions and activities – examples under Small, Medium and Large are given below.

1.2        Normally, one function only would be held at any one time, however it should be possible for two functions to held, with the smaller one in the tower.

1.3        Also to offer Emergency Facilities for ‘unforeseen’ local disasters and medical ‘First Responder’ cabinet.

1.4        Traditional Church use and atmosphere must be maintained in those parts of the building, which are primarily needed for worship. It will be essential to avoid any encroachment on the height of the nave and chancel; the visual ascetic contributes much to the current atmosphere of the building. Consideration of retention or relocation of Headstones that ‘pave the Aisle must be made. (Tony Crabtree advises that the entire nave floor including the Headstones were re-laid with waterproof membrane c. 1999)

1.5        Functions:

1.5.1     Small (up to 10 people):

  1. Small village committee
  2. Coffee mornings
  3. ‘Floor Campers’ (eg Ridgeway walkers – needing one night’s rest)

 1.5.2     Medium (10 to 30 people)

  1. Parish Council Meeting
  2. Children’s Parties
  3. School activities
  4. Art Classes
  5. Polling Station
  6. Pilate’s and Yoga classes
  7. Mother and toddler group.
  8. Nursery school
  9. Bell Ringing Meetings (over and above normal ringing)

 1.5.3     Large  (30 to 160 people)

  1. Dances
  2. Concerts and Film showings
  3. Exhibitions (eg Art)
  4. Receptions (including after Weddings/ Christenings/Funerals)
  5. Larger Meetings (Village or Commercial)
  6. Information/Resilience Centre in case of loss of service from major Local Authority/Utility services.

Emergency place of safety – in conjunction with Parish Council and Emergency Planning Committee

  1. Key requirements

 2.1        The requirements will include changes to both the inside and outside of the Church. There will be constraints which include the essential maintenance of the church as a place of worship, the structural integrity of the building and flexible use of space, facilities and churchyard.

2.2       Small, Medium and Large events/functions will require more or less space: the available space will be ‘Zoned’, using some form of partition – each zone may be used separately or combined to provide space arrangements as required, perhaps by curtains or folding doors.

2.3        All proposed changes require the approval of the diocesan authorities before the design can be approved.

– 2.3.1     Preservation of existing structure:  This will be the responsibility of the architect, but we must bear in mind that any proposals made must be tempered by the ultimate integrity of the church structure – (eg   allowing ‘breathing’ of existing dampness of the flagstone floor when we perhaps request a ‘modern floor covering’) Similar considerations will apply to toilets heating and lighting provisions &c – with guidance from the Diocesan Advisory Committee (DAC).

–  2.3.2     Floor Space – including Mezzanine Floor: The main ‘community activity area’ will be based on the nave. Using the ringing floor area of the Bell Tower and a newly constructed mezzanine floor above the nave and adjoining the tower may provide extra space. Space above the bells, limited by size (12’ x 12’ x 5’ head room), may be available for storage, subject to the provision of a suitable and safe method of moving stored items.

2.4        All areas of the building, including the Bell Tower must be ‘child safe’ to allow unrestricted access to the whole ground floor when the building is used for community purposes. Consideration should be given to improving the ringing floor of the bell tower, to blend in with the nave floor.

2.5        Consideration should be given to making the entire nave floor to a high standard (possibly wood) no steps on the ground floor, allowing both access for the disabled and flexible use of the space. Moveable furniture, including pews, modern single seats and tables, could be arranged to suit any function and stored when not required. Suitable chairs must be of good aesthetic appearance, comfortable and stack well for easy movement and storage. (see Storage under Facilities – below)

2.6        While not part of this brief, it is considered that some redesign of the chancel seating might form part of the overall new seating arrangements.

 2.7        Entrance:  The entrance to the nave has the Font to the right – consideration should be given to its being re-sited to left of the entrance facilitating more convenient use of the allocated zones.

 – 2.7.1     The entrance floor must be level with the interior floor (wheelchair/disabled) with provision to keep out rain in inclement weather.

– 2.7.2     Defibrillator cabinet, available to First Responders only.

2.8              Storage space is essential. Various tables, chairs, equipments for regular events, as well as crockery, cooking utensils, & etc. will require extra storage space, inside and outside the building.

2.9        Cloakrooms, Toilets and Kitchen.  The kitchen need not be a separate room but should have sufficient facility for Small events and ‘minor catering’ for Medium events (i.e. food heating, refrigeration, crockery washing etc.). Large events would require external caterers, which the kitchen could ‘support’ only.)

– 2.9.1     A hot water supply and hand basins will be needed in the toilets and kitchen to meet hygiene regulations.   *   Toilets facilities for disabled visitors and baby changing will be required: all toilets should be capable of use by children.

2.10      Heating of the building must be both flexible and efficient (efficiency enhanced by heat retention perhaps with moveable divisions). There must be Zone Control so that smaller events can be pursued without heating the entire Church space. Smart metering for the electricity and gas supply should be provided.

2.11      Lighting should ‘zoned’ to allow use of limited areas for smaller events and be flexible to allow more or less light for concerts or film shows. The complete lighting systems should be controllable both from a central control box and within individual lighting zones or rooms. Emergency lighting for is required for all areas in the event of power failure – including the tower.

2.12      Multi-media equipment linked to computer/broadband will be required to facilitate church services, concerts, public speaking and film shows.

2.13      Smoke and Safety Alarms are also essential along with the emergency lighting.

  • 14 Electrical supply points, with adequate capacity, should be available in all zones and rooms.

2.15      Telephone connection especially for emergency use. (& Broadband sited in the vestry?)

3.0     Structural

3.1        Church Services attract varying sizes of congregation. The Knave must be able to accommodate a few (perhaps up to 20 people) right up to a ‘full house’. Moveable pews and chairs must facilitate this.

The Mezzanine offers extra seating – see below. (para 3.3)

3.2        Community Events attract different numbers. The open floor plan suggested will facilitate this, but some form of space division needs to be provided so that the area used is not uncomfortably large, nor expensive to heat. Some Curtains or moveable panels (glass?) should be provided for easy space adjustment, to join or separate the ‘zones’.

3.3        The Mezzanine floor will provide extra floor area, providing Balcony Seating for both Church services and other larger events.

– 3.3.1     it is recognised that use must be limited as access for disabled is not feasible without considerable expense. (Consequently, Cloakrooms and Toilets etc will of necessity be on the ground floor.)

– 3.3.2     some storage space may be available – possibly enhanced by access to the space above the Bells

3.4        Entrance Porch requires provision to ensure easy disabled access onto the Community floor. A Defibrillator might be sited inside/outside (see para 2.7.2)

3.5        Extra storage capacity might be provided outside the building to provide significant storage space to supplement the inside storage space.

3.6        For certain ‘occasional’ large events a Gazebos/marquees might be erected on the north side of the Church.

3.7        The Path between the churchyard gates to the church entrance need to have improved surfaces to make them safe in inclement weather and adequate lighting to make them safe for events held after sunset. This would also make them safer for the village community members who use them as footpaths.

 3.8        Gates – All churchyard gates shall be fitted with locks to prevent small children from

4.0 Appendix  – supplementary notes and thoughts

 4.1        Small functions might be held below the Mezzanine – this would allow closing the small area closed off from the main part of the Knave facilitating economy of heating.

4.2        Large functions might require Porta-Loos.  The External drainage system might provide a suitable access point for waste discharge and it may be advisable to provide a hard standing close to this access for use by temporary Porta-Loo trailers.

4.3        Sprinkler System – It would be wise to obtain the view of the DAC before considering this further.

4.4        Security – the contents of the building (i.e. movable furniture and other artefacts stored in the nave) must be protected from the threat of theft or damage by an appropriate security system and/or procedures.

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