Interest and expectation are growing for the congregation of St Michael le Belfrey, led by its team of four clergy, 25-strong operational and pastoral staff, interns and volunteers, as the planned temporary move to De Grey Rooms approaches during their Impact building project.
Near to the spot where Constantine was proclaimed Emperor of Rome and close neighbour of York Minster, the Anglican church of St Michael le Belfrey on High Petergate was built between 1525 and 1537. Believed to have been named le Belfrey due to its closeness to the Minster bell tower, it’s also the church in which Guy Fawkes was baptised in 1570.
An Historic England grade l listed building and little altered since the 16th century, it’s been 150 years since any major building work has been undertaken. St Michael le Belfrey now requires significant restoration to its roof, stonework and windows, and the need for these important structural repairs has afforded the church the opportunity to introduce improved facilities.They hope to create a new gallery, contemporary seating, lift, in-floor baptism pool and underfloor heating, wanting to ensure that their magnificent medieval building is as accessible and welcoming as possible for everyone. The Belfrey see the proposed scheme as honouring their past, resourcing future generations and empowering their vision of Christian ministry. Decades in the making, during the three-year building project, The Belfrey’s new home will be the De Grey Rooms on St. Leonard’s Place.
The church began its ministry in the 60s based at St Cuthbert’s on Peasholme Green. Still a resource space for The Belfrey and City of York today as a House of Prayer, it is within reach of the De Grey Rooms, a short walk along York’s City walls. Long discussed as the perfect temporary home, Amber Boydell, Operations Manager for The Belfrey, commented:
“We couldn’t believe that the De Grey Rooms became available just when we needed to make the decision about our temporary home. It was an answer to a lot of prayers.”
A significant building, central to York and large enough to house the 600-strong congregation, together with offices and flexible spaces for activities, few other buildings fit the bill. The Belfrey leadership team are also delighted to be able to offer the De Grey Rooms for hire during their tenure. Amber again:
“We are grateful for the friendship and generosity of the team at York Conservation Trust. The De Grey Rooms will undoubtedly add to our creativity as a church and we of course, not only welcome anyone who would like to worship with us, but also anyone who would like to use the building for celebrations, meetings and events. An iconic York venue, our aim is to share the space with residents and visitors as much as we can alongside our ministry.”
During the Covid pandemic York Theatre Royal vacated the De Grey Rooms and since then the Trust have upgraded the facilities, as well as undertaken conservation work to the roof lantern and other areas. The redecoration of the exterior is underway and the Trust operations team are looking forward to the Belfrey congregation as a neighbour, as they will be moving to the adjacent De Grey House at the end of May.
CEO of York Conservation Trust Jonathan Bryant is also delighted that they has been able to make De Grey Rooms available to the community of St Michael le Belfrey, commenting:
“Our whole approach to conservation is that historic buildings should be occupied and a serve useful purpose in contemporary society and we are very pleased that we are able to work together, each pursuing our specific charitable purposes in a mutually beneficial way.”
The Belfrey hope to take up residence at the De Grey Rooms in late 2023, pending approval of their Impact building project from the Diocese of York.
To find out more about St Michael le Belfrey, their worship, restoration and reordering plans, and for all hire enquiries for De Grey Rooms, please visit their website.