A MAJOR conservation project is under way at St Michael’s Church, Inveresk, after a cash boost of nearly a quarter of a million pounds was received.

Congregation members were delighted to hear that their funding bids totalling £228,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic Environment Scotland had been successful.

The stone slated roof building has been in urgent need of repair.

Conservation work will be carried out to the church roof and masonry including stone indenting, replacement and repair, rainwater goods and stained glass, together with other window and door repairs.

A display in the church including various leaflets, developing the church website with heritage information and expanding many historical topics are also part of the project. The intention is to digitise certain collections and join them through a single web portal, allowing online public access for the first time.

An educational programme is also planned with other partnerships involving outreach visits to Musselburgh’s seven local primary schools and beyond.

Volunteers have been given training to enable them to provide guided tours of the church and explain the background and history of the stained glass windows and artefacts.

In addition, during the contract period, talks will be given by local historians, practical demonstrations and workshops by artisans involved in the restoration of the building.

The church has been a focal point and used by the community for over two centuries. St Michael’s is known as the Visible Kirk as its spire can be seen from far and wide.

The building, which is currently used by both church and community groups, was completed in 1805 on a site which has been a place of worship since Roman times.

Jim Raitt, overall project co-ordinator, was thrilled with the award. He said: “We were absolutely delighted that the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic Environment Scotland have provided us with this grant giving the overall project a fantastic lift.Our historic church will now become a place and opportunity for live entertainment, public meetings, and with the recently donated state-of-the-art audio/visual equipment, film nights and large group activities will continue to be developed.

“It’s great to know that we are a step closer to preserving, adapting, publicising and promoting this historic building for another century.”

Lucy Casot, head of Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) Scotland, said: “Scotland’s historic and diverse places of worship are so often at the heart of our communities.

“Thanks to National Lottery players, HLF funds urgent structural repairs and also improved facilities and visitor information.

“St Michael’s Kirk is an excellent example of how HLF can help conserve a much-loved building so it can continue to serve its local community.”

A development grant of £21,100 had already been awarded and the congregations of St Michael’s and its daughter church St John’s, Whitecraig, have been raising well in excess of £50,000 through initiatives such as Buy a Brick and donations.

Financial assistance for the restoration has also come from other trusts and organisations, including the Musselburgh Common Good Fund.

As the vast majority of the work is external or contained within the basement, it is anticipated that the church will not be vacated by the congregation while work is taking place.

The contract with G Brown Stonemasons Ltd of Haddington is programmed for 36 weeks and should be completed by late May/early June next year.