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Inverness church is awarded two grants to fix climate-ravaged building


By Andrew Dixon

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Free North Church. Picture: Sharon Macleod
Free North Church. Picture: Sharon Macleod

The effects of the climate crisis – heavier and increased rainfall – have left the Free North Church in Inverness badly damaged and in need of urgent repairs.

The gutters and downpipes cannot cope with the rain and water is causing destruction in the south west tower and the nave. The side of the church next to the river is also facing serious erosion, with the exposed sandstone crumbling.

The cost of repairs to the building is estimated to be £145,000.

But now the much-loved B-Listed church is to share in a £496,625 urgent funding pay-out from the National Churches Trust.

A £5000 grant will help to pay for urgent repairs. The church also receives a £10,000 Wolfson Fabric Repair Grant from the Wolfson Foundation, on the recommendation of the trust.

This important repair work will not only improve the look of the building, but will enable the church to continue the many community groups it runs in the building. This includes the warm space it runs in the winter and groups that help people who are suffering from addictions.

Angus Macrae, minister at the Free North Church, said: “Our church is grateful for the generous support of the National Churches Trust and the Wolfson Foundation. Grants from funders and kind-hearted supporters go a long way towards our target.

“We are privileged to care for people of all ages and backgrounds, providing practical, emotional and spiritual care from our unique venue. Funding helps us focus on serving the community and large numbers of visitors to the Highlands. Investing in the Free North building helps to preserve our heritage and our future usefulness to Inverness and the Highlands.”

Free North Church. Picture: Sharon Macleod
Free North Church. Picture: Sharon Macleod

The grant will help make the building watertight and safer. This includes replacing damaged stones, repairs to the timber and the tower roof will be re-slated.

Trust chief executive Claire Walker was excited to be able to support the church to enable urgent repairs.

"Not only will this protect this important heritage, but it will help to keep the church building open and serving local people,” she said. “Whether seeking quiet reflection, access to community services or a place to worship, the National Churches Trust helps hundreds of churches each year and with the support of local people, keeps them thriving today and tomorrow.”

The impressive Gothic church was designed by local architect Dr Alexander Ross and completed in the 1890s. Seating capacity is 1400, making it not only the largest church in Inverness but it also has the tallest steeple, which stands at over 50 metres.

Karen Hind, Scotland support office for the trust, said: “The Free North Church of Inverness is a prominent building in the townscape of Inverness, with its huge spire and community outreach. Once the building is made safe and watertight, we are excited for the plans that the church has to welcome even more visitors to this beautiful historic church.”

Paul Ramsbottom, chief executive of the Wolfson Foundation, said: "Churches sit in the heart of their communities and provide unrivalled support to local people. We are delighted to continue to partner with the National Churches Trust to help conserve and restore listed places of worship of outstanding historical and architectural significance, preserving these much-loved buildings for future generations to enjoy.”


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