Portsmouth church re-opens with cafe after £500,000 renovation project

  • Buckland United Reformed Church has re-opened after almost a year of renovations
  • The refurbishment has seen a new cafe open and the church more spacious
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IT’S not been heard for more than 70 years.

But after a £500,000 revamp, the bell at Buckland Reformed Church is chiming again.

The Rev Cliff Bembridge with Jennie Lee, left, and Sonia Turner' inthe Clock cafe at ''Buckland United Reformed Church in Kingston Road, Portsmouth 'Picture: Paul Jacobs (160143-11)

The Rev Cliff Bembridge with Jennie Lee, left, and Sonia Turner' inthe Clock cafe at ''Buckland United Reformed Church in Kingston Road, Portsmouth 'Picture: Paul Jacobs (160143-11)

Yesterday, the church reopened complete with a new cafe for the community called The Clock.

The church has been closed since May last year for the makeover, which saw the area for the congregation halved to make room for the cafe.

As part of the development, which was carried out by D&K Services, the gallery which used to block out the church’s stained glass windows has been removed. It is the first time the windows have been on display since the 1800s.

The revamp saw artefacts from the old church built into the new cafe section.

With the glass doors and open plan entrance we hope to see more welcoming and attract more people.

Minister Cliff Bembridge

Gold leaf metal surround from the original pulpit is below the counter and organ stops are displayed on the wall. Customers sit on chapel chairs at rustic tables.

The Rev Cliff Bembridge said: ‘It is great to have the church back open again and with the new cafe.

‘Initially, it will be used just as a cafe space for the community to drink and have a snack but we hope to develop it as a space for the community to do activities and run organisations.’

Mr Bembridge added: ‘The space is now open and fresh. It allows visitors to now see a sight that hasn’t been appreciated in nearly 200 years.

The Clock cafe managers Sharon Mead, left, and Maria Oram'' Picture: Paul Jacobs (160143-12)

The Clock cafe managers Sharon Mead, left, and Maria Oram'' Picture: Paul Jacobs (160143-12)

‘Before the refurbishment we used to have dark wooden doors and the entrance wasn’t very accessible.

‘But now with the glass doors and open plan entrance we hope to seem more welcoming and attract more people.’

During the renovation, church services were held in the hall next door.

Mr Bembridge said everyone was looking forward to getting back into the main church building.

‘The congregation, myself included, are excited to be back in the normal place of worship,’ he said.

‘We’re delighted with this spectacular outcome.’

To mark the development, a special service was held. It was attended by the city council Lib Dem leader Councillor Gerald Vernon-­Jackson.

He said: ‘The church has done an amazing job on the makeover. It’s really great. It is such a good space now.

‘It was previously built for hundreds of people but the congregation is not that big any more so it is much better suited now. It is light and a really good, welcoming space.’

As well as holding services, the church is home to a number of community groups.