Magnificent St Stephen's restoration cries out for final push
PUBLISHED: 10:39 24 June 2009 | UPDATED: 16:16 07 September 2010
The Heath and Hampstead Society, to which we are all indebted, had a new location for its annual meeting on Tuesday night, as well as a change in its presiding officers Vice presidents Helen Marcus and Martin Humphery neither of them strangers to hosti
The Heath and Hampstead Society, to which we are all indebted, had a new location for its annual meeting on Tuesday night, as well as a change in its presiding officers
Vice presidents Helen Marcus and Martin Humphery neither of them strangers to hosting public meetings, did a fine job of standing in for President Lord Hoffman and chairman Tony Hillier respectively - or was it the other way round?
Either way, the meeting swung along at a cracking pace and the choice of special guest, Esther Rantzen, proved to be particularly apposite in view of Esther's interest in standing at the next General Election, albeit in Luton South rather than her beloved Hampstead.
Local councillors Chris Philp (Conservative) and Ed Fordham (Liberal Democrat) who are both candidates for the new Hampstead and Kilburn seat, were watching from the wings, probably relieved that they don't have to take Esther on.
But it was the change of venue that really caught the eye of more than 100 members who attended the meeting. Until very recently St Stephen's Church on Rosslyn Hill was in a state of great disrepair.
When I last visited, I was concerned that if I leaned up against the wrong piece of scaffolding, the entire ancient edifice would come crumbling down around me.
Now it has been returned to something resembling its former glory and an ambitious restoration scheme is all but complete - apart from the last vital part of an energetic £5 million fundraising drive.
Society members saw for themselves what a magnificent job has been done by the restoration team under the stewardship of Michael Taylor. This was a mighty undertaking, but the end result is that after 10 years, one of Hampstead's finest buildings has been rescued from ruin.
Helen Marcus made a special appeal for Society members to support the final drive. The truth is that this could make the difference between the project reaching fruition and a great and noble venture ending in tears.
Ham&High readers have already proved to be great supporters of the charity appeal - and your continued support will ensure that St Stephen's is not only restored, but open for business as a stunning new arts centre and meeting place for decades to come.
Gothic on the outside, decidedly Moorish on the inside, St Stephen's is virtually a work of art in itself and looking at it now, it's hard to credit that it was allowed to stand derelict for some 30 years.
It must be immensely frustrating for the restoration team that it is proving difficult in these straitened times to complete the mission. Even though times are tough, this is an important restoration that cries out for the people of Hampstead to find just a little bit extra - the finishing line is clearly in sight. For the venture to fall at the very last hurdle would be unthinkable.