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Campaign raising £1.5m to restore 19th century Pugin church in Forest Gate

PUBLISHED: 07:00 12 October 2020

An aerial view of St Antony of Padua church in Forest Gate. Picture: Shea Lolin

An aerial view of St Antony of Padua church in Forest Gate. Picture: Shea Lolin

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A historic church in Forest Gate has launched a campaign to restore the 136-year-old building – and raise £1.5million to fund it.

St Antony of Padua church in the 1880s. Picture: Brentwood Diocesan ArchivesSt Antony of Padua church in the 1880s. Picture: Brentwood Diocesan Archives

Built in 1884 for the growing Catholic community in east London, the St Antony of Padua church in St Antony’s Road was designed by Peter Pugin, son of the famous Augustus Pugin.

Radical alterations were made to the church in 1967, which included covering over the ornate stonework.

More than half a century later, St Antony’s received permission from the Diocese of Brentwood and English Heritage at the start of this year to begin restoring the sanctuary and uncovering Pugin’s original masterpiece.

The sanctuary works, which began in March and will cost about £500,000, include the cleaning and repairing of the stonework behind the altar and the reredos - the original decorative screen covering the wall.

The original sanctuary at St Antony of Padua in Forest Gate. Picture: Brentwood Diocesan ArchivesThe original sanctuary at St Antony of Padua in Forest Gate. Picture: Brentwood Diocesan Archives

The restoration team were astonished by what they found.

The architect of the restoration, Anthony Delarue, said: “We began stripping back the plaster and we found some pretty spectacular 19th century carved stonework.

“The goal of this project is to put the building back so that it does to the pilgrims of the future what it did on day one.”

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The church once housed 150 monks, who also founded the St Bonaventure’s school, which was established at its current location adjacent to St Antony’s in 1877.

To complete the restoration work, St Antony’s is embarking on the biggest and most ambitious funding campaign in its history.

It estimates the total cost of restoring the sanctuary plus repairing and refurbishing the rest of the church will be £1.5m.

The campaign’s JustGiving page has already raised more than £380,000.

How the sanctuary in the St Antony of Padua originally looked. Picture: Brentwood Diocesan ArchivesHow the sanctuary in the St Antony of Padua originally looked. Picture: Brentwood Diocesan Archives

Parish priest, Father John Jesus, said: “The face of east London is constantly shifting - and many parts of it are unrecognisable now, compared with even 25 years ago.

“This makes for an exciting and dynamic area in which to live - but we need places of stability and wisdom in a changing world.”

As part of the campaign, a 23-minute documentary about the history and restoration of the church has been produced.

Visit justgiving.com/fundraising/stantonyfg to donate.

Alterations made to the church in the 1960s, which included covering over the ornate stonework, damaged the sanctuary. Picture: Anthony DelarueAlterations made to the church in the 1960s, which included covering over the ornate stonework, damaged the sanctuary. Picture: Anthony Delarue

Go to youtu.be/NZkd_fr0wrw to watch the documentary.


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