Site offers 'inspirational new cultural offer'

July 30 2020

FULL restoration of the Whitfield Tabernacle is at the heart of the plans to revive Kingswood centre.

Heritage site: Whitfield Tabernacle

The trustees of the historic building hope to make it a community space with possible uses including a space for performances and a cultural cinema.

South Gloucestershire Council sees the Grade-1 listed building as the key to a wider programme of investment in land and building acquisition in the town centre.

The first phase of work to stabilise the most vulnerable parts of the derelict tabernacle on Park Road has now been completed. This will enable safe access so the second phase of the work, funded by £682,000 awarded by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA) through its ‘Love our High Streets’ project, can begin. 

Listed Building Consent has been granted and  the council has appointed an architect on behalf of the Whitfield Tabernacle Trust to help plan the rest of the redevelopment, which is dependent on a successful bid to the Government’s Future High Streets Fund.

The building  has a rich ecclesiastical history, reaching back to George Whitfield who, with John and Charles Wesley and John Cennick established the Evangelical revivalist movement in Bristol during the 1730s. 

After John Wesley’s New Room in Bristol (built in 1739), the Whitfield Tabernacle is the earliest of the non-conformist places of worship built throughout the world during the 18th and 19th centuries. It was opened in 1742 and eventually shut in 1992.

The Masters Church was built nearby in 1851. It served until 1983 when the church was finally closed due to falling attendances. The Grade-II listed Masters Church is now being converted by Crossman Homes to 19 apartments with three dwellings behind.

The Rev Anthony Hick, chairman of the Whitfield Tabernacle Trust, said: “This represents an exciting first next step for the trust in the restoration of this historic building which is valued and remembered fondly by many Kingswood residents. “Kingswood played an extraordinary role in the birth of non-conformist religion the evangelical revival and I am pleased that the wider regeneration plans for Kingswood are presenting history and culture at the heart of the offer. 

“Stabilisation will enable us to open the building to the public for the first time for nearly 30 years. We intend to have display boards inside to tell the history and significance of the building and enable visitors to grasp the vision and potential for its future.”

Council leader Toby Savage said the proposals could provide an inspirational new cultural offer for Kingswood.

"It is great to see all the activity on the Whitfield Tabernacle Conservation Area,” he said “We have been thoroughly committed to securing the investment to finally restore the tabernacle alongside this private sector investment and hope that the Government will back us to go beyond stabilisation and complete full restoration.”

The Whitfield Tabernacle Trust is keen to hear from people with an interest in the site or with expertise they might be able to offer. Contact engage@whitfieldtabernacle.org