Rotherham Minster launches £3 million redevelopment campaign

Rotherham Minster has towered over the town for more than 500 years.

But to ensure the town’s oldest and most significant building remains for the next thousand years, its vicar took a leap of faith to launch an ambitious £3 million fundraising campaign.

Canon Batchford takes a leap of faith (c) Shaun Flannary/Rotherham Minster

In April, Rev Canon Phil Batchford, together with the Bishop of Sheffield, Rt Rev Dr Pete Wilcox, descended 42-feet from the Minster’s bell tower into the central transept while dressed in their clerical robes.

The abseil kickstarted the Minster’s year-long ‘Building Hope in the Heart of Rotherham’ campaign. They aim to raise £3 million by next summer to redevelop the interior of the church to make it more flexible, hospitable and accessible for the wider community.

Canon Batchford, who has been the vicar for five years, said: “It’s a real leap of faith trying to raise that much money in the current climate in Rotherham, so we wanted to embody that by doing the literal leap of faith with an abseil.”

The Minster has always been at the heart of the town. But over the last few years, its reach into the community has continued to grow, extending far beyond the beautiful building.

They provide music sessions in schools, run the Social Supermarket and Catch Up Café and have set up various weekly wellbeing groups in the church.

Canon Batchford’s wife, Christine, is the project manager for Rotherham Minster Connections which is responsible for the community groups.

They started the Social Supermarket in the pandemic, which has since led to a weekly café on a Tuesday, men’s group on Wednesdays, toddler group on Thursdays and crafts sessions twice a week.

“It’s all about building bridges and links. By coming here, people have found a community to belong to and people to connect with. Those who might have used the Social Supermarket have become volunteers helping us run groups because they want to give us something in return. The community has become so much richer because of it,” Christine says.

Museum of the Moon at Rotherham Minster, Nov 2023

The Minster has also hosted various events such as candlelit concerts. In November, they welcomed the exceptional Museum of the Moon exhibition where they had 10,000 visitors through the doors.

But in its current form, the Minster’s internal layout is somewhat limiting. It’s been 30 years since any modernisation was done in the Minster.

“We could offer so much more if the existing infrastructure was not in,” Canon Batchford says.

The plans include removing pews, relevelling the floor and installing underfloor heating to create a more open-plan area that would come in useful for their weekly cafes and groups.

They also hope to create two new meeting or rehearsal rooms for chorister or music practice. Other developments in the pipeline include rebuilding the toilet block and creating a mobile hospitality space for refreshments.

The Jesus Chapel, which was last restored in 1921, will be glassed in so that worship can still take place while other activities are going on. The 1770s Snetzler organ, one of the finest examples in the country, is also going to be restored and relocated.

Bishop of Sheffield, Rt Rev Dr Pete Wilcox, takes on the abseil at Rotherham Minster (c) Shaun Flannary

The Bishop of Sheffield gave his blessing to the plans, with the Church of England making a substantial donation to the campaign. Canon Batchford would like to hope that, by summer 2025, they’ll have reached their £3m target so that works can begin.

On Saturday 8th June, they have organised a 1940s night with a performance by Dearne Big Band and Singers. This year is the 80th anniversary of the Normandy Landings, so the event will pay homage to music of the 1940s with the likes of Glenn Miller and Frank Sinatra. Vintage or wartime outfits are welcomed. The event starts at 7pm and there will be a bar plus teas and coffees, plus a grand raffle. Tickets are £10 per person bookable via Eventbrite, or £12 on the door.

You can donate to the Minster’s fundraising campaign over on their JustGiving page. Or find out more about the project on their website.