Old Uniting Church receives $100,000 heritage grant

Entrepreneurs Bianca Wicks and Steve Haslam with MP Thomas George in the historic church the couple are renovating as a community centre.

Entrepreneurs Bianca Wicks and Steve Haslam with MP Thomas George in the historic church the couple are renovating as a community centre.

The former Tenterfield Uniting Church and hall is receiving a makeover courtesy of a $100,000 Heritage Near Me activation grant to bring local heritage to life, Member for Lismore Thomas George announced today.

Mr George said many will be pleased to see the church and the manse next door reunited again under the same ownership, and for its restoration and management to be in the safe hands of entrepreneurial couple Bianca Wicks and Steve Haslam.

“Despite their religious affiliation, people are looking for non-denominal churches for weddings and other functions,” Mr George said.

Steve said their aim is to offer the facility as a venue for community use. The cosy chapel with stained glass windows and soaring ceilings can seat up to 100 in its as-new pews, or up to 60 at two tables for a long lunch.

The facility will be offered as a non-denominational church replete with a reception hall serviced by a commercial kitchen, and landscaped gardens for taking photographs.

The hall already hosts the Saturday Farmers and Producers Market, regular country music gatherings and yoga classes. Catered events will become an option once the kitchen is brought up to council specifications.

The couple hope to have the chapel back in use in four weeks time once basic renovations are completed, but Steve said it will be an ongoing project.

They have stripped the chapel back and are busy repainting and refinishing the floors. The original church was built in the late 19th century but a lightning strike in 1929 saw it burned to the ground, to be rebuilt in 1930.

It will be open again to the public at set times during the week for people to inspect the heritage building, and to check out the historic books documenting activities at the church.

The church grounds will be planted out and enclosed by a white picket fence, echoing times past.

The church grounds will be planted out and enclosed by a white picket fence, echoing times past.

Steve is removing the ceiling in the church foyer obscuring the bell tower, so visitors can see right up to the historic church bell.

He has just finished planting out bare-rooted ornamental pears in the gardens, and a white picket fence will be erected reminiscent of the original church yard. There will also be an arbour in the church grounds for bridal arrivals, or even outdoor long lunches. 

The plantings will be irrigated with a water captured from the structure’s large roof area, to avoid drawing on the town water supply.

Back in the hall, to stay in keeping with the historic church theme items like the fluoro lights and aluminium windows will be replaced with a pressed metal ceiling and timber-framed windows, and a timber door will be installed.

The facility will be accessible to anybody, with ramps and toilet facilities for those wheelchair-bound.

The church is currently a renovation site, but will be back in use in around four weeks time.

The church is currently a renovation site, but will be back in use in around four weeks time.

“As an all-in-one property, it works really well,” Steve said.

The project is one of 33 across NSW that will share $2.67 million in grants to provide for the upgrade, expansion, restoration or conservation of locally-listed heritage items in towns and suburbs across NSW.

Tenterfield gets its fair share of such grants due to its strong heritage ties, Mr George said, but it’s thanks to people like Steve and Bianca that such items are being preserved.

“The community should be proud with what they are doing, here and at the Old Council Chambers. They have faith in Tenterfield.

“They’re another asset to Tenterfield. It’s not just about about the buildings but also the people who look after them.

“By encouraging the community to use and enjoy our heritage places we ensure they are valued and protected for future generations.”

This year marks the third round of Heritage Near Me Activation Grants. Over the three years, a total of $8 million has been awarded to support 107 local heritage projects across the state.

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