The Reawakening of St Mary Magdalene: Supporting Newark’s Communities

Lottery News: 11.01.2024

The Reawakening of St Mary Magdalene; Supporting Newark’s Communities project has been awarded a £2.5 million grant by The National Lottery Heritage Fund to enable delivery of the project during the later part of 2024 through to 2026

Today, the Parochial Church Council of St Mary Magdalene with St Leonard, Newark, has received a National Lottery Heritage Fund grant of £2.5 million for an exciting heritage project, Reawakening of St Mary Magdalene: Supporting Newark’s Communities, in Newark. Made possible by money raised by National Lottery players, the project focuses on major roof repairs and other refurbishment of the Grade 1 Listed building together with the delivery of an exciting 3 year Activity Plan.

Supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the project will ‘Reawaken’ St Mary’s so that it becomes a hub in the town and by developing a programme of heritage, educational and volunteering activities and improving physical access will ensure that everyone has a warm welcome. Repairs, upgrades and new environmental sustainability measures will make the church safe and water-tight, reinstating it as a key heritage asset in the town and securing it for many generations to come. It will also support the people of Newark and Sherwood District and beyond, including young people with their heritage and construction careers, allowing them opportunities to learn about and develop heritage skills.

St Mary Magdalene is a 12th Century church which has been witness to Newark’s remarkable history and is celebrated as one of the finest parish churches in the country and is of national and international importance. The repairs will ensure that it is available for generations to come.

Project-Lead and Churchwarden, Andrew Fearn, said that he and his colleagues are enormously excited by the grant which will enable the project to proceed. “Thanks to the generosity of National Lottery players, we have the opportunity to secure this wonderful building for future generations. Our Activity Plan is ambitious and imaginative, and I am thrilled that it will enable us to support the town’s communities, visitors, and tourists alike.”

National Lottery Heritage Fund
The Church of England in Newark & Southwell Deanery
Diocese of Southwell and Nottingham
St Leonard’s Church – Social and Information Page

Reawakening, SDU and Urgent Works Update: October 2023

It is time to update everyone about our progress and I am very pleased to do so.

In mid-August, we submitted our application to the Lottery Board for the main project funding. The East Midlands committee will be considering the application on 29 November (having undertaken due diligence in the meantime) and we will hear the result shortly afterwards. A delegation from the lottery will be visiting us on 24 November for an inspection and a presentation from us.

We still have to raise more match funding and that work continues. If you know anyone who might be prepared to contribute, please let me know.

Applications have been made to the District Council for planning consent and to the Diocese for a Faculty. We have just heard from the diocese that no objections are being raised but that they will be imposing conditions (which we fully expected). The process now moves to the Petition itself and the public notice. We continue to liaise with the diocese closely, not least because we hope that it will assist us with a cashflow loan during the capital works phase.

We also continue to work closely with the District and Town Councils and continue to develop a helpful and constructive relationship with officers.

Finally, we were invited to apply for significant emergency funding from both Historic England and the Lottery Board to enable us to carry out urgent works to the north roof, high level masonry and rainwater goods. The Lottery part of the grant has now been confirmed and we are just waiting to hear from HE to confirm their offer in principle. Hopefully, this aspect of the work will start in the middle part of next year. Once this has happened and the Reawakening work completed (subject to funding), we hope that the building will be removed from the Heritage at Risk Register.

As ever, I am always willing to answer queries.
Andrew Fearn, Church Warden

Update 16.5.2023

I am very pleased to submit this report on our progress with these two intertwined projects.

The Project Board (which includes all our professional team together with Chris Lion, Andrew Fearn, Pat Mercer, James Howlett, David Godfrey and Anne Coyne) continues to meet monthly, either virtually or on site. Project Board minutes are full and self-explanatory and are circulated to the PCC. There is also a quarterly meeting with the National Lottery Heritage Fund representatives and the PCC has received a copy of the latest Progress Report submitted to the Fund. In addition to these meetings, full updates are given to every meeting of the Standing Committee and PCC as well as periodic updates in Bitesize News and on the website.

i am pleased to say that there appears to be general support for the principle of the repairs and internal re-ordering. 

We are coming to the end of the development phase which has enabled us to work up the project, cost it and start the process of obtaining a range of formal consents. We have also been busy fund-raising; more of that below. We had hoped to be in a position to make our application for the main funding to the Lottery in May 2023 but discussions about some of the detail with Historic England, the Diocesan Advisory Committee and others have resulted in this being pushed back to August. The Lottery is aware and fine with this, but it does potentially cause some funding issues as the SDU work (ie platform extension, Thomas Magnus room, AV equipment and new chairs) has to be done by the end of 2024. This represents a tight time schedule but everyone is aware and planning accordingly. Happily, we successfully passed our Mid -Stage Review with the Lottery and have been invited to continue to the next stage, ie the application. We have always had to raise approximately £300k as match funding. Applications to trusts and charities have raised in excess of £160k and we have raised over £60k through an Appeal launch and subsequent work with members of the congregation. This work goes on. 

Work on our Activity Plan has continued apace and this is a crucial element of the Lottery requirements. We have to reach out to the wider community and this has been happening in a number of ways. Our storytellers have been working in the schools as well as with girls from the Traveller community and Ukrainian refugees. They tell stories from the history of the church making them fun and inter-reactive. The two primary schools involved are those with the highest incidence of free school meals.

 We have continued to work with our Interpretation consultants who have been designing display panels for the various ‘attractions’ around the church and I am very grateful to those in the congregation whom I have asked to draft text. It has been an interesting exercise which has enabled a number of us to apply talents to this work. The consultants are also in the process of re-designing our logo so that it can be incorporated in the display panels and used in our parish publicity.

The design team has been hard at work and striving to give us what we want as well as pleasing other interested parties. Inflationary cost pressures have caused some ‘value engineering’ and we have had to accept that we cannot have everything which we had originally wanted. This has been a constant tension in the work. It is our bad luck that we have hit upon this exceptional period of high inflation and increasing interest rates. Most recently, we have had to agree to the new Thomas Magnus Room and new cafe being swapped over so that the cafe will be where the baptistry is now and the Thomas Magnus room where the cafe currently is situated. This was principally at the behest of Historic England whose view is extremely influential. However, we will hopefully end up with the same accommodation but not necessarily where we had originally intended. We have always been aware that compromises were inevitable. 

Throughout the year we have also been building key alliances. Nottingham University sent six students to compile a Social Media strategy and they have produced a film of their work. As a result, one of the students may be offered a heritage-based internship during the summer vacation. Newark Civic Trust have also been engaged and a group are visiting this summer to ascend the tower and inspect the south roof. Probably the most important aspect of our liaisons has been with the District Council. We are represented on the Newark Town’s Fund Board and the Cultural Heart of Newark Board. Senior officers from NSDC have attended meetings arranged by Alix Slater so that there is full awareness of our project. Some of them are visiting the church shortly to undertake a roof top inspection and see for themselves what is intended. Our lighting consultants have also been engaged by NSDC to improve external lighting round the church in order to discourage ASB. The consultants will be making a presentation to NSDC and ourselves shortly after this report is written. We are also actively talking to senior officers to investigate whether NSDC can offer financial support to one or more aspects of Reawakening. Prior to our project we had very limited lines of communication with NSDC; that has changed completely and some strong connections have been forged. The Lottery will be supporting the Castle renovations and they have been explicit in encouraging us to work in a collaborative way.

Outside the scope of the Reawakening project, we have been aware that repairs to the north roof and masonry issues on that side will be a problem in the short to medium term. Currently, Historic England and NLHF are discussing whether, jointly, they can make available emergency funding in the order of £300k to enable this work to be done. The objective is to remove the church from the Heritage at Risk Register (it was registered at our behest 3 or 4 years ago and is now potentially working in our favour!). If this funding becomes reality, it is likely that the work will be done later this year in advance of the main project work. Inevitably, this report is only a summary of the activity but, as ever, I am very happy to answer any questions

Andrew Fearn
16 May 2023

Public Consultation Document

Consultation Event

WATCH THIS SPACE – Consultation Proposals and Feedback Form will be ready to view here shortly. 

Join us in person, and share your thoughts on the repair, reordering and activity plans.

St Mary Magdalene Church, Newark, is hosting a 2-day engagement event with family friendly activities and story-telling for children.  The PCC has secured National Lottery Heritage Fund, funding to undertake urgent fabric repairs and install new facilities in the building to make it more accessible.  On Friday 25th and Saturday 26th November Chris Lion the vicar and consultant team will be on hand to present the current proposals for repair and improvement of the building as well as ideas for a 3-year programme of activities to accompany the works.   The PCC is inviting anyone who is interested to come along and learn about the project and give your feedback on the proposals developed so far.

The “Re-awakening of St Mary Magdalene; Supporting Newark’s Communities” project, aims to re-roof the south aisle, which is badly leaking, repair broken stained glass windows and, at the same time, install photovoltaic panels which will generate electricity to light and power the building.  There will also be new WCs and a café with improved lighting and heating and the west entrance will be automated to ensure everyone can enter the building more easily. These works will improve the church to enable more members of the community to take advantage of this beautiful space in the centre of the town.  The creation of a new activity and worship space in the south aisle will create a sound proofed room to enable groups of all ages to meet separately to other activities in the main church.  Repairs to the masonry and windows will enable the church to offer specific learning opportunities to young people interested in developing heritage craft skills.  

The programme for the 2-day event is as follow:

 Friday 25th November

  • 10am – 4pm: Drop in, review the proposals, and discuss with project and church staff
  • 12-1pm: presentation on the proposals, followed by an opportunity for Q&A 

Saturday 26th November

  • 9am-1pm: Drop in, review the proposals, and discuss with project and church staff
  • 10.30am: Storytelling session for ages 4-12: The Grave and the Silver – the story of Lord and Lady Leek
  • 11.30am: Storytelling session for ages 4-12: Wealth, wool, death and rats – the rise and fall of St Mary Magdalene’s chantries

Tea, coffee and refreshments, and self-led children’s colouring in activities, will also be available throughout both days.

Please do come in and meet the team and give your views on the proposals, this is an important event for the project and it needs your support. 

Social Media Update (11.8.22)
Want to learn more about our exciting conservation and regeneration project – Reawakening St Mary Magdalene?
We’ve just launched a dedicated Twitter page chronicling the Project’s progress!
Search for @ReawakenStMarys or click here.
We’ll continue to provide updates via Facebook and Instagram but if you want more regular info, juicy historical and architectural facts, and insights into a major conservation project, then follow us over on Twitter.
This project is generously funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Reawakening and SDU Project Updates (14.2.2022)


The Project Managers and Fund Raising Consultants have now been appointed. The former are Rosie Fraser and Hannah Southgate and the latter, Vikki Thompson.

Rosie and Hannah have visited Newark and met the PCC; they are now busy recruiting the remaining consultant team and the members of the Finance and Administration Committee have dates in the diary throughout March for meetings and interviews. An Inception meeting is scheduled for 7 April when our Project Board will meet the design team in advance of work starting in earnest.

For a full schedule of the work comprised within this Development phase, click here:

SDU (Strategic Development Unit)

Our architect has now assembled his design team for this re-ordering work which is sponsored by the Church of England’s SDU. The projected work includes re-ordering elements, ie. Enclose the coffee bar area and the area on the opposite side which currently incorporates the font. This will afford much needed soundproofed spaces. Also envisaged is the removal of the remaining central pews to the rear of the cross-aisle and a new platform extension so as to accommodate worship in an informal setting. Finally, we look to install new audio-visual equipment to supplement our existing facilities as an aide to worship.

Also…The Cultural Heart of Newark

The District Council has initiated this study into various aspects relating to the cultural heart of the town. The consultants are fully aware of our plans and are wholly supportive as St Mary’s is seen as a fundamental part of the town’s heritage and cultural ‘offering’. An initial meeting has taken place with the consultants and, by the time this piece is published, we will also have met with representatives of the District Council on site.

As ever, I am more than happy to share information as required. Feel free to call me or email.

Andrew Fearn
07887 916042

Re-awakening of St Mary Magdalene;  Supporting Newark’s Communities.

St Mary Magdalene Church, Newark, is awarded a grant of £209,000 by The National Lottery Heritage Fund to develop a scheme with a view to carrying out a wide range of repairs and renovations forming the “Re-awakening of St Mary Magdalene; Supporting Newark’s Communities” project.

The Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene has received initial support from The National Lottery Heritage Fund for the “Re-awakening of St Mary Magdalene; Supporting Newark’s Communities” project, it was announced today.  Made possible by National Lottery players, the project aims to repair and renovate critical aspects of the Church.

Development funding of £209,000  has been awarded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund to help St Mary Magdalene Church progress their plans to apply for a full National Lottery grant at a later date.

The project aims to re-roof the south nave and, at the same time, install 120 solar panels, install new electrical and lighting systems with new central heating, repairs to external masonry and stained glass, as well as re-ordering the south and west entrances and enclosing the north transept.   These works will improve the church environment to enable more community users to take advantage of this unique space in the centre of the town.  In particular the enclosure of the north transept will create a sound proofed room to enable groups of all ages to meet separately to other activities in the main church.  Technical work on the masonry and windows will enable the church to offer specific learning opportunities to young people interested in those skills.  

The Church of St Mary Magdalene has been a place of gathering and worship for the townspeople of Newark on Trent for over 800 years.   Situated, as it is, in the centre of the town adjacent to the historic market place, with its towering spire, it has acted as a beacon to Christians and others for many centuries.    The bequest by Archdeacon Thomas Magnus in 1530 continues to enable the church to offer a musical education, which is exceptional in the context of a market town parish church. 

Commenting on the award, Andrew Fearn, Church Warden,  said: “We’re delighted that we’ve received this support thanks to National Lottery players. The church has given the town a focus for Christian worship and community activities of many sorts.   It’s great to know that we are a step closer to preserving it for future generations.”

Notes to editors

The Parish Church of St Mary Magdalene, Newark in the parish of St Mary Magdalene with St Leonard, Newark.

Rector:  The Revd Chris Lion

Church Wardens:  Andrew Fearn and Tony Roberts

Church Walk, Newark, Notts, NG24 1JS

Tel: 01636 706473  /  Email:

About The National Lottery Heritage Fund

National Lottery Heritage Fund grant applications over £250,000 are assessed in two rounds. The Re-awakening of St Mary Magdalene project has initially been granted round one development funding of £209,000  by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, allowing it to progress with its plans. Detailed proposals are then considered by The National Lottery Heritage Fund at second round, where a final decision is made on the full funding award of £1.9m.

Using money raised by the National Lottery, we Inspire, lead and resource the UK’s heritage to create positive and lasting change for people and communities, now and in the future.

 Follow @HeritageFundUK on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram and use #NationalLotteryHeritageFund 

Since The National Lottery began in 1994, National Lottery players have raised over £43 billion for projects and more than 635,000 grants have been awarded across the UK.

Further Information

For further information, images and interviews please contact Andrew Fearn at St Mary Magdalene on 07887916042 /