AN 19th century church in Portsmouth has begun its £1.5m redevelopment with its pews being removed to undergo a transformation into office furniture.
St Luke's Southsea, in Isambard Brunel Road, saw staff from the Royal Navy Personnel Support Group in Portsmouth remove 28 pews from the inner city building today.
The pews will be taken to the Portsmouth Makers Guild, where they will be refashioned as screens, tables, and chairs for the church's new co-working space, The Host.
The Vicar of the church, Reverend Annie McCabe, said the Royal Navy’s support was an example of 'working with the community, not just in the community.'
Speaking about the redevelopment, she said: 'We are still a church at heart, but we need to be a place for every one in the community.
'The plans allows us to have a really flexible space.’
Curate Bryan Stephenson, who was a social worker in Portsmouth for more than 10 years, added: 'When you have the pews, you cannot do much more than services.'
The redevelopment will see the grade II listed building, which is on the Heritage at Risk Register, feature an open plan community space, as well as a cafe.
The church is funding the redevelopment through community fundraising and the £500,000 sale of its sister church, St Peter’s, in Somers Road.
Lt Commander Jason Steele, Officer in Charge of the Personnel Support Group in Portsmouth, lead more than 10 members of staff from the Royal Navy in moving the 18ft long pews.
He said: 'I've been in Portsmouth for 25 years, and I've never been here before - it's a great building.
'I was brought up in Ireland, and I was brought up with the church always being a big part of the community.
'But It's not just about attending on Sundays - the church is about out reach and helping people.'
The church building will be closed for up to four weeks as its floor is replaced, with services moving to the hall next door.
The Host co-working space, which will be available to use for a fee, is due to open in November.