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Historical Hackney nonreligious church removed from Heritage At Risk list following renovations

PUBLISHED: 14:51 23 October 2020 | UPDATED: 14:56 23 October 2020

Heritage At Risk 2020: New Unity minister Andy Pakula in the Newington Green church. Picture: Chris Redgrave

Heritage At Risk 2020: New Unity minister Andy Pakula in the Newington Green church. Picture: Chris Redgrave

© Historic England Archive

A historical building in Hackney has been saved from imminent disrepair by a renovation project.

Heritage At Risk 2020.
Unitarian Church, 39 Newington Green. Picture: Chris RedgraveHeritage At Risk 2020. Unitarian Church, 39 Newington Green. Picture: Chris Redgrave

As of October 15, Historic England’s Heritage At Risk Register, which charts the important buildings around the country most at risk of neglect, decay or inappropriate development, does not include Newington Green Meeting House.

The former Newington Green Unitarian Church, which is now home to New Unity nonreligious church, is London’s oldest nonconformist place of worship still in use, and it has had connections to political radicalism for over 300 years.

It can boast two claims to fame, with statistician Dr Richard Price as a minister and feminist author Mary Wollstonecraft as a member of the congregation.

Dr Price was also visited by US founding fathers Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson.

Heritage At Risk 2020.
Unitarian Church, 39 Newington Green. Picture: Chris RedgraveHeritage At Risk 2020. Unitarian Church, 39 Newington Green. Picture: Chris Redgrave

The building was built in 1708 and partially rebuilt and enlarged in 1860, and has recently had issues with the roof, damp and structural movement.

However, in June this year the New Unity congregation finished its Recovering the Dissenters’ Legacy project - which included full repairs to the historic fabric of the building, improved access and upgraded facilities - and the site has been taken off the register.

Andy Pakula, New Unity minister, told the Gazette: “All the renovation and restorations and everything we did has made it a much better place, and a place that will survive another 150 years.”

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He said upgrades, which include the installation of a basement with accessible toilets and technological advancements such as a laser projector, mean the space has been restored every 150 years since it was built.

READ MORE: Radical Newington Green church set for much-needed £1.7million makeover

“Being put on that list was a blessing and a curse,” Andy said. “The curse is it recognises you are really in trouble and the blessing is resources become more available.

“Being on the list is the start of an adventure.”

Heritage At Risk 2020.
Unitarian Church, 39 Newington Green. Picture: Chris RedgraveHeritage At Risk 2020. Unitarian Church, 39 Newington Green. Picture: Chris Redgrave

Recovering the Dissenters’ Legacy project was funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

Emily Gee, regional director for Historic England in London and the South East, said: “In testing times, heritage can give us a sense of continuity and bring us solace.

“We also know that investing in our historic places can help boost our economic recovery. Across London, the places rescued from the register this year show us that good progress is being made, but there is still a long way to go and many more historic buildings and places which need love, funding, strong partnership working and community support to give them a brighter future.”

Since 2019, 18 historic buildings in London have been removed from the list because they are no longer in immediate danger.

There have also been 216 sites added to the list around the UK.


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