The Parish Church of St George and St Mary’s, in Church Gresley, Swadlincote. St George and St Mary’s Church is one of the largest churches in the deanery of Repton, Derbyshire. Our congregation comes largely from the community of Church Gresley and the immediate area of Swadlincote. However, in December 2017, the church building had to close as it has significant issues with its roof and upper stone work.
Upon exploring the situation and the context of the area we began to look at a much bigger plan than simply restoring the roof and stonework. This area has a wealth of history (over 1000 years that can be known of) with the church itself boasting the archeological remains of a 12th century Priory. The area also has a significant issue with social mobility and many schools are developing plans to help raise the aspirations of their students. Therefore, we decided to apply, in stages, to the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) for a larger grant of £2m for a much larger plan that would support a Heritage project that celebrates local heritage, helps to tackle aspects of social mobility, and repairs and restores St George’s and St Mary’s.
This grand plan seeks to engage in a large-scale community archaeological dig with all local schools (of our 1135AD Priory ruins that lie behind the mediaeval church building), to restore the church building, and rebuild part of the priory to create a Heritage Centre for this wider area – for the whole of the greater Swadlincote area and beyond. The much larger HLF grant expects heritage projects of this scale to be used as a vehicle for social transformation – specific and contextual to the area. Transformation is about breaking through ‘glass ceilings’ in people’s lives and broadening their horizons by providing opportunities to experience and succeed at new things.
National social research has identified that South Derbyshire suffers with the lowest Social Mobility in England (See: Sutton Trust) – this is particularly found across Swadlincote. Social Mobility measurements look at how well children do when they leave primary, leave secondary, and how diverse the choices are that they make post school and into adulthood. Low social mobility, therefore, shuts down opportunities for our young people especially and directly impacts upon their future. It creates ‘glass ceilings’ that affect self-belief & aspirations. These factors shrink people’s potential and the opportunities to try new experiences. However, low social mobility is not about ability but about low self-esteem and low aspirations. It’s being told repeatedly and in all sorts of different ways that “You’re not good enough.”
Our HLF bid, through a community archaeological dig, would initially look to work with large numbers of children, teenagers, and their families through their schools and with their local churches – and raise aspirations in doing so. This will involve the Minster Model in order to put at our core raising the aspirations across the greater Swadlincote area (especially local children and youth) so that all might hear and know this:
For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:
Breakdown of plan
To dig up, with professional archeological support, all the Priory remains and learn all we that we can about the past, whilst engaging many school students (and their parents in the process). This would be a significant Community Archaeological Dig. It would be part of an ongoing heritage experience that encouraged regular volunteering, regular archaeological digging experiences, learning higher order skills (including interpretation and cataloguing alongside professionals), during project– Cleaning, drawing, photographing, cataloguing, and Interpreting finds etc.
To repair St George’s Church and recreate (as part of a new build) the Priory into a St George’s Priory Heritage Centre.
To rebuild a major section of the Priory as a modern community heritage centre – with a centre, offices, rooms, kitchen, and toilets – that can be used for toddlers, music, meetings, eating etc. and tells the story of the rich heritage of our past and all who were involved. We would look to engage local families, through their children, in discovering for the first time (or re-discovering) what an amazing place this was – and, therefore, could be again. Local primary schools would regularly visit, see and hear about the rich history here.
Post project – A New Priory Heritage Centre/Restored St George’s that would:
Intentionally develop the wider communities’ understanding of the mediaeval and industrial heritage and connect up the other local heritage sites and attractions as part of a trail.
Intentionally meet the issue of social mobility amongst children, youth and their families through ongoing outreach, and workshops around the heritage discovered and interpreted alongside partners from local colleges, universities and industries – promoting the disciplines found in history, archaeology and STEM subjects.
Intentionally create a centre of excellence for the development of community services, providing and maintaining a community centre for meetings, training or other forms of recreation and leisure time occupation in the interests of social welfare and with the object of improving the conditions of life for those residents.
Intentionally unlock existing potential in local adults by offering ongoing volunteer and work-based opportunities – including placements for local young people (year 10 and 12 work experience weeks and post GCSE/A Level).
Intentionally create realistic business models for the ongoing upkeep and maintenance of the buildings (e.g.: medieval wedding packages in partnership with local companies).
Gresley Church – A Church at the heart of the Community seeking to be:
Rooted in Scripture, Relational, & Abundantly Generous.