St Paul’s Church

St Paul's Church

St Paul’s Church Hills Road, Cambridge

In 1996 this grade 2 listed church was substantially altered to open it up to its local community; with 3 large and 4 smaller spaces for hire, a huge variety of community activities takes place here. Over time, however, the church itself became marginalised within its own building.

Archangel has carried out three interrelated phases of work to redress this balance:

  • a chapel has been created as a permanent place for quiet reflection and worship; this is a quiet space of simplicity and intimacy lit by a single rooflight above;
  • the worship space has been reordered with new flooring, heating, storage. tea station etc, restoring to it its sense of dignity and drama;
  • a new entrance space provides a common identity uniting the church and community aspects of the building, while also providing much needed toilets.

The building was opened in September 2013 by Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury.

Most churches struggle to open themselves up to their community. St Paul’s had done extensive work in the 1990s to bring community uses into the Grade 2 listed building. As a result, a huge variety of activities take place in the church – you can find out more on the Centre at St Paul’s website. The challenge, however, was that the worshipping congregation of the church had become sidelined within the building. Our work at St Paul’s comprised three separate elements:

Reordering the worship space
The remaining pews were removed. A stage area was created so that the east end of the chancel can be used for theatre, for school assemblies or as one of the possible focuses for church worship. The painted backdrop at the east end has been restored, and most users enjoy this, but it can be screened off with curtains, for example for theatre use. A small kitchen and large chair store has been created across the end of the north transept, allowing the church to be cleared of chairs.

The success of this space stems from its simplicity and dignity, which has been restored to it by removing so much visual clutter.

One complaint on the part of the church arising from the very success of the previous project was that there was nowhere left for the church to use during the week. From an old vestry and lobby we have created a small chapel for up to 25 people, which is permanently available for church use. 3 side windows have been replaced within existing stone openings, and a new central rooflight added to provide a focus to the space. A small extension creates a dedicated access with WC and tea station.

As the building was left after the previous works the worship space and the Centre had separate doors. The third phase of work created a combined entrance space with ample space for arrival and welcome, together with WCs in a much better location than the existing ones.

Main Contractor: Coulson Building Group
Structural Engineer: Ashton Consulting Engineers
Services Engineer: Stuart Olley Associates
Quantity Surveyor: Trinity Place