Open invitation to help save church for the community

St Michael's Church, Honiton. Photo by Terry Ife

St Michael's Church, Honiton - Credit: Terry Ife

Campaigners working to save Honiton’s St Michael’s Church for the community are organising an Open Day on Sunday, September 26.  

Local residents are invited to visit the church between 1pm and 4pm to learn about the church's past and to help secure its future. 

The church was shut by Honiton Church Council in 2019 and officially became a “closed church” overseen by the Diocese of Exeter. A group of volunteers called ‘St Michael’s on the Hill’ was quickly formed to find a way to take on the church as a community venture, and to bring it back into use for the town. 

At the Open Day there will be history displays, refreshments and tours of the church tower with magnificent views over the town. The chairman of the campaign group, Terry Darrant, said: “We want to engage with the town's people, groups and charities, not only have them help us facilitate the space, but also to invite anyone interested to come on board and help us secure its future by taking on the building as a charity.” 

“Covid-19 put everything on hold,” he added. “But we are now back on track hoping to negotiate a grace period from the Diocese to use the building, engage with the public and raise some funds to move the project and the building forward into a new sustainable era, and permit it once again to serve the town as it has done for the past six centuries.” 

Organisers have announced that the minimum age for those taking the tour of the church tower is 12. Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult. Although there is no set upper age limit for this tour, those attending should note the difficulty of the climb.  The stairs are very steep and narrow, and the tower roof has low walls. 

The organisers say: “The tour of the tower may be unsuitable for those who are elderly, infirm, disabled, pregnant, those suffering from heart or respiratory disorders, or any other medical condition which could be affected by the climb. Due to width restrictions, large items of baggage are not permitted. Suitable clothing and foot-wear should be worn.” 

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There has been a church or chapel on this site since at least the fourteenth century. St. Michael’s Church was extended in the fifteenth century, with further internal alterations and renovations in the nineteenth century. The church ceased to be Honiton’s main parish church when St. Paul’s Church was built in the 1830s. 

St Michael’s suffered serious damage as a result of a fire in 1911, and had to be largely rebuilt. It was re-opened in 1912. The tower is the oldest part of the church which survived the fire. 

Entry to the church on the Open Day is free, but ‘St.Michael’s on the Hill’ would welcome donations as they start their fundraising in earnest. 

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