We're fundraising for internal restoration and reordering works that will breathe new life into St Mary's Church and create a much-needed community hub and arts and performance space at the heart of Totnes. This includes:
- a new stone floor
- improved heating and lighting
- catering facilities
- flexible seating
Please donate and help secure the future of this beautiful medieval building.
About the project
The Totnes Heritage Trust was set up in 2018 to oversee the desperately needed restoration of St Mary's. Built in around 1450, this historically significant church was placed on the Heritage At Risk Register in 2015, with more than 50 items needing immediate attention. The crumbling mortar and cracking sandstone, along with many internal repairs such as the collapsing stone floor, should have been addressed long before now.
You may have seen that external work is now under way, thanks to a grant from the Culture Recovery Fund. However, this is just dealing with the most pressing of the issues - there is a lot more that needs to be done to secure St Mary's future.
But this is not just about preserving an iconic building at the heart of our town; it's about realising a bold vision of what it can offer to our community in the 21st century - as a sacred place and as a community hub, an exhibition space and a performing arts venue.
We have so far been supported by organisations including the Garfield Weston Foundation, Devon Historic Churches Trust, Wakefield Trust and Sabina Sutherland Charitable Trust. We have also had encouraging discussions with the Heritage Lottery Fund, for which we are now preparing an application. But the HLF and other organisations like it want to see that St Mary's will be used by as many people as possible - and that the community has thrown its weight behind the project.
Your donation, then, will help us in two vital ways: it will be used directly for the internal restoration and reordering of the church and it will also be instrumental in getting large grant-giving organisations to come on board and support us.
So what exactly does this project entail?
An awe-inspiring space for the arts
If you've ever been to a concert at St Mary's, you will know what astonishing acoustics and atmosphere it has. Just look at the love it received from Sea Change festivalgoers and performers alike. Clash magazine declared it 'one of the most divine venues for live music in the country'. We want to see a year-round programme of theatre, talks and music of all kinds. We want your favourite podcast to be recorded live here. We want to see exhibitions by local artists and galleries as well as touring art fairs and installations. In a town that no longer has a viable large performance space, this is desperately needed and would go a long way to reinvigorating Totnes's reputation as a centre for music and the arts.
A truly flexible community hub
We want to see St Mary's used in as many ways as possible by as many people as possible. A warm, well-lit, welcoming space that will be available for private hire, with newfangled luxuries such as catering facilities and on-site toilets! The pews will be replaced with flexible seating that can be rearranged or removed to utilise the entire space. Support groups will be able to sit in circles in the centre of the church. The sun will shine through the stained-glass windows on to exercise mats and soft-play cushions. It will come alive with craft markets, food festivals and, yes, music festivals. If you can imagine it, we want to make it a reality.
Who are we?
The Totnes Heritage Trust grew out of a partnership beteen Totnes with Bridgetown Parochial Church Council, which was overseeing the St Mary’s Restoration and Reordering Project, and the Totnes Trust, which was running the St Mary’s Heritage Area Project, along with Totnes Town Council, which owns the Guildhall and maintains the churchyard. It was set up in 2018 to focus the effort to fundraise for and project manage urgently needed restoration work. Registered as a charity in 2019, its objectives are to conserve and enhance not only the historically significant mediaeval priory and parish church and the outstanding heritage area around it, but to proactively pursue conservation and enhancement works to further buildings and landscapes of public amenity and benefit within Totnes that are also of historical, architectural or local importance. Its nine trustees reflect a cross-section of the community and bring a wealth of experience and energy to the project.
What will my donation fund?
Your support now will directly help fund the new catering and toilet facilities, but for the reasons outlined above, it will also indirectly help the project on its way to meeting the phase 2 costs of £1.2 million.
Our legacy for future generations
Totnes wouldn't be Totnes without its blood-red church peeking up from every viewpoint - truly the heart of this wonderful, unique and historic town. Donate now to give it a new lease of life and ensure it survives another 550 years.
We've pulled together a selection of unique rewards that will only be available to donors. Some of them are limited-number offers. Don't miss out!
£20 or more - thank-you postcard with pin badge
£30 or more - campaign tote bag
£50 or more - Totnes Map poster
£75 or more - church tour and trip up the tower!
£100 or more - Willis organ experience
£100 or more - a pair of Sea Change tickets
£250 or more - a pew from St Mary's
£1,000 or more - limited-edition Totnes Map wall hanging
£2,500 or more - your name engraved in the new stone floor
If you would like to donate a reward for the campaign, please email [email protected]
*Please bear in mind that some of our larger rewards cannot be realised until work is under way or complete. While we have given an indication of likely timescales for fulfilling these, we cannot give precise dates at this point. We hope you will understand that a large-scale community project such as this is somewhat at the mercy of funders and contracters when it comes to speed of progress. A wildly successful Crowdfunder bid will certainly help speed it along though!
Still need convincing?
"I return to the church and, as usual, there’s something miraculous about to happen. Tonight, it’s all about Jane Weaver, transforming her 2017 album ‘Modern Kosmologie’ into something she’s billing as ‘Kosmologie Ancienne’, a divine creation fleshed out by the orchestral work of Immix Ensemble. Combined with the beautiful visual backdrop, it’s one of the most peaceful experiences I’ve ever experienced in a live music setting." - Matthew Neale, Clash Magazine