Fr Eamon Graham, Parish Priest of Lavey and Greenlough, tells us about the fascinating history of St Mary’s, Lavey, Northern Ireland, and how the government’s Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme has helped maintain it for the community and future generations.
The chapel was built in 1873 and while initially it was the intention that it be built on the opposite side of the road, geological and topographical issues meant this was not possible and so it was built in the present site. At that time churches tried to follow an east-west axis, thus the relocation created a church that was in essence back to front with no real main entrance.
Very little work was carried out on the church in the intervening years beyond providing toilets and enlarging the porch. But there has been a concerted effort since the 1980s to renovate and update the church.
Renovating the chapel
At the outset of the current (almost complete) renovation, the vision was to provide a chapel fit for the 21st century, yet one that our ancestors who built it would fully recognise.
The renovation has consisted of a complete renewal of all the services and fabric of the chapel from heating and electrics, to plumbing, sound and amplification, even a webcam. The roof, slates, flooring and seating have also been renewed. The addition of the new porch has realised a vision from 1873 that could not be completed at the time.
Award winning architecture
There has been the addition of a spire that was intended and indeed attempted in the 1880s, creating a landmark for the whole community. The renovation has met the approval of all the parishioners, which is a tribute to the workmanship of the contractor as well as the vision of the architect.
The contractor who renovated St Mary’s was shortlisted for the Construction Restoration award and needless to say we were delighted to win.
We are very grateful for the support of the Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme which has helped realise a long held hope and vision, helping it become a reality.