Young chorister pleads for Heene church to be saved

editorial image

A SCHOOLBOY has made a desperate plea for help to save a Worthing church.

Jamie Elliott has been singing in the St Botolph’s Church choir since he was seven years old.

The Victorian church, pictured left, in Lansdowne Road, is threatened with closure because of falling congregation numbers and the need for some expensive building work.

Jamie, 14, of Ophir Road, said: “St Botolph’s is the only church in Worthing with eight bells; all the others have less. It is a very iconic building in Worthing due to its tall spire. It is in the parish of Heene, which has a long history in Worthing as it is mentioned in the Domesday Book – there has been a church in Heene since the 11th century.”

Over the last week, fencing has been put up all around the church including across the main door, which Jamie said makes it look like it is completely closed.

“In fact, it is still very much open but has been done because of potential falling of masonry, although it is safe inside.

“The church does need some repair work and to raise money for this I want to encourage people to come to the church. There are family services as well as regular services and other events, too.

“If we don’t use it, we will lose it.”

Six years ago, as a result of singing in St Botolph’s Church choir, Jamie won a scholarship to sing in Westminster Abbey Choir. From that, he then won a scholarship to study at Lancing College.

He said: “This is a very high achievement as the choir at Westminster Abbey takes only eight boys a year from all over the world. This wouldn’t have happened if I had not been in St Botolph’s choir.

“The church’s choir is one of only two choirs in Worthing that have children singing in it, as well as adults. If the church closes, then the choir will have to end which is a shame as other children will not have the opportunity to sing and learn to play the church organ like I have.”

As well as encouraging people to attend the church, Jamie is also asking for help to raise funds for the repairs. A spokesman from the Diocese of Chichester said: “St Botolph’s Church, Heene, is still open for daily worship and the fencing that has been erected is necessary to comply with insurance requirements and the inspecting architect due to health and safety issues.

“The church has taken steps to ensure that visitors to the church are directed to available entrances.

“The diocese has submitted a request for closure of the church and this is currently being considered by the Church Commissioners, but it could be some time before a final decision is taken.”

l Last April, Father Peter Roberts, Rector of Heene, told the Herald the church’s financial situation was like a “sword hanging over our heads”.

He said the church faced a repair bill of more than £1million, and if it did have to close, the parish of Heene would be divided up and shared among other adjoining parishes.