Work to protect and restore Kingswood’s 18th century Whitfield Tabernacle has reached a significant milestone, with the first phase of work to restore the Grade one listed building now complete.
The building is set in the heart of the Kingswood conservation area and has been stabilised following years of neglect, with a newly installed roof now protecting it from the elements and security measures in place to safeguard its long-term future.
South Gloucestershire Council is working closely with the Tabernacle Trust and local company, Ferguson Mann Architects, to fully restore the building for the benefit of the local community. The next phase of the project will see the full restoration of the building, bringing it back into use and opening to the public.
Work is expected to be complete by the end 2023 when the Tabernacle will open as a community building and performing arts space, to be enjoyed by the people of Kingswood and the wider area.
A time capsule was discovered during the restoration having lay undiscovered in the walls of the building since the 1930s. It was placed around 90 years ago by the Tabernacle’s then caretaker. Inside was an order of service and a page from the Western Daily Press which covered an event in 1913 when a plaque was unveiled to commemorate George Whitefield.
Leader of South Gloucestershire Council, councillor Toby Savage recently met with members of the Tabernacle Trust to see how the work to unlock the potential of the building and give it a new lease of life was progressing.
Councillor Savage said: “It is fantastic to see how work to restore the Tabernacle is beginning to take shape and it is immensely satisfying after the years of hard work it has taken to get to this stage. I am thrilled to see it being revitalised and being put back into public use as a community building and performing arts space.
“The building has international significance in terms of its associated history with the non—conformist movement, so it is important we restore and protect it for the benefit of the local community, and for future generations. This is an exciting time for Kingswood, with plans for the High Street taking shape and our purchase of the Kings Chase shopping centre set to unlock opportunities for investment into leisure, retail, residential and other significant developments in the area.”
Tabernacle Trust Secretary, Kim Scudamore said: “The last time some of our Trustees had been inside the building there was no roof. We had to carefully pick our way over rotten floorboards and try to avoid the trees and vegetation that had taken over the space in the years that the building lay abandoned. To see the restored pillars, new roof, windows, and security doors gave us a glimpse of what the restored space will look like when the full development is achieved next year.”
The stabilisation work has been funded by the West of England Combined Authority through its Love our High Streets project, and by Historic England.
For more information visit https://beta.southglos.gov.uk/kingswood-masterplan