England

Heritage grants safeguard historic Ramsgate abbey

St Augustine's Abbey
Image caption The abbey needs £1m for repairs over the next four years (Alex Ramsay/English Heritage)

The immediate future of a historic church in Ramsgate has been assured thanks to a £110,000 grant.

The 19th Century St Augustine's Abbey, designed by Augustus Pugin, faced an uncertain future after the Benedictine monks who occupied and maintained it announced they were moving out.

But the grant, from English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund, means urgent structural repairs can go ahead.

Church officials want St Augustine's to become "a place of modern pilgrimage".

Work began on the building in 1844. It forms part of a complex of Grade I listed buildings designed by the architect, who also built his home there.

'Huge significance'

It is widely regarded as a key building of the Catholic revival in England, with additional significance because of its location, close to where theologian and philosopher St Augustine landed in AD 597.

Parish priest Fr Marcus Holden, who took up his position in Ramsgate in September 2010, said: "St Augustine's has huge significance, not just for the people of Ramsgate, but for Catholics far beyond.

"The grant will ensure that urgent repairs to the structure are carried out to halt deterioration. Further phases of repair will then be taken forward."

The monks, who had lived at the abbey since 1850, voted last year to leave because there were not enough of them to continue maintaining the fast-deteriorating building.

They are set to move to the Franciscan Friary in Chilworth, Surrey, which is being vacated by The Order of Friars Minor for similar economic reasons.

The Ramsgate abbey has a leaking roof and dry rot in a gutter. The grant will help fund the first phase of repairs, enabling it to continue to be used for Catholic worship.

Fr Holden hopes to establish a Friends group to raise more funds and help rejuvenate the building. He aims to raise £1m over four years.

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