Since the St John's Church Preservation Group was inaugurated in November 2007, there has been some outstanding work done and effort put in by many individuals to secure a future for the project at Kates Hill, Dudley. Chair Deb Brownlee has led a team of willing and enthusiastic people, but there is still much to be done for this Grade II listed building to have the best chance of securing a future and becoming a worthy asset to the local community.
As a landmark building, the church on Kates Hill would be greatly missed if it was ever to fall foul of the demolition men, which was a distinct possibility when it finally closed to the public in November 2002. But the local community recognised potential in a building that dates back to 1840. The Preservation Group was formed, a steering group chaired by the Archdeacon of Dudley was established, and then listed status was awarded, several milestones achieved along a long and winding road.
We have been following the Group through every twist and turn, and Deb recently told us: "Bugle readers have probably been wondering what is going on with the campaign.
We are making haste, slowly, as getting anything wrong after we have come so far doesn't bear thinking about, and we are being very cautious in our responses to the points raised as a result of our highly detailed business plan, making sure we dot all the i's and cross all the t's.
“We have called our committee together frequently, without leaving a single stone unturned, and our expert advisory panel, made up of specialists who give their time and expertise free of charge, has been an enormous help as well. The Diocese of Worcester has been brilliant at extracting key points where further detail was needed, and giving us the chance to answer questions before they are asked, and the next port of call for the all important business plan will be the church commissioners, and for that we have begun the final countdown.” Credit Carl Chinn agreed to be the patron of the Preservation Group a few years ago and he recently said: "The Preservation Group and their supporters deserve great credit for their efforts to get the campaign to reopen St John's this far, through sheer determination and hard work. Black Country people and others from beyond the area have never wavered in their support and with a firm grip, show an enormous tenacity and will to hold on to their heritage and history, in spite of the rapid changes taking place in the Black Country region as a whole."
Deb continues: “I'd like to pass on my thanks to all Bugle readers for all their support since November 2007 and hope it will continue; after all, a Black Country that loses its old buildings will inevitably lose its character.” Maintaining the churchyard at St John's and the surrounding area has always been an important aspect of the Preservation Group's work, and Deb would like to appeal for future helpers: "It's as simple as this. We'd like potential grounds helpers to get in touch. I want to gather names for some clean up days we'll be organising soon, and for anyone interested they can email me (savestjohnschurch@ hotmail.co.uk) or ring/text me (0787 1195042).
“It's one of the most important jobs we can do at the moment, sweeping, weeding, picking fallen wood, and anyone strimmer trained can lend a hand at the strimming.
All the volunteers need to bring with them is a smile, enthusiasm — the camaraderie is terrific on clean-up days — and gardening gloves and a stout pair of shoes. We provide everything else including tea and biscuits.
Hope to see you there and once again thanks very much."