Towering target for church hall restoration appeal

St James the Great at Silsden has launched a major project to raise £350,000 to convert its historic church hall into a modern, community facility.

The initiative – labelled Project 200+ – will include renovations to the kitchen, new toilets, a sprung wooden dance floor and a patio for outdoor events, which will be accessed via modern French doors.

Vicar, Revd David Griffiths, acknowledges that raising the funds will be a challenge, but it is hoped work on the 200-year-old hall could be carried out next summer.

“Our present hall has served Silsden well for two momentous centuries and remains at the heart of the community,” he said.

“This is why we have given these plans the name Project 200+, because we aim to build on this legacy and equip the church for the next 200 years of service.

“Project 200+ will provide a lighter, brighter and more environmentally-friendly space for community use, fit for the 21st century.

“I am sure that Silsden will come together and be enthused by this visionary scheme for the next generation.

“It is an exciting moment for the town.”

A giant illuminated barometer has been placed on the tower of the church, in Kirkgate, which will be used to indicate the progress of fundraising.

“I want to see the barometer rocket over the next few months!” said the Rev Griffiths, pictured right.

Additional church committees have been formed to support the venture.

One of the groups will be tasked with identifying sources of grant aid, while another will organise fundraising activities.

The current hall, which is alongside the church, was opened in 1820 and housed the town’s first school.

Today it hosts a string of organisations including Scout and Guide groups and a pre-school playgroup, as well as church-linked meetings.

Around 500 people use the facility every week.

Over the Easter period, the hall became a community focal point during the town’s gas crisis.

Northern Gas Networks set-up a drop-in centre at the premises, to offer help and guidance to residents.

Virtually all of Silsden was left without gas when a contractor damaged a pipeline at the Barratt development off Belton Road, on Good Friday morning.

Supplies to some properties were down for several days.

The hall remained open throughout.

Nearly 3,000 heaters and other essential items such as heat plates were distributed, together with food vouchers for several outlets in the area.

The community earned high praise for the way it rallied round.

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