Photo: Eileen Sandy of the Merchant Navy Association hands over a cheque for £5,000 towards the renovation to Cllr Peter Wakeford.
Crusaders worshipped there, soldiers bound for Agincourt prayed there and the crew of the Titanic is commemorated there, but since it was devastated by a second world war bomb, Holyrood Church in Southampton has been a ruin.
Now, thanks to a £670,000 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, essential repairs and improvements in interpretation will help secure the future of this historic building.
Kevin White, Conservation Officer at Southampton City Council told the 24 Hour Museum why the work to be carried out is so important.
"The church is falling down," he said. "It has got a number of structural problems and there are features exposed which aren’t designed to be, so we need to do remedial work."
Photo: Holyrood Church pictured in 1980. © Southampton City Council.
Repairs will include work on the tower and the chancel, while a new lighting scheme is planned to make it a feature of Southampton’s night skyline.
But, much more than just a chance to carry out physical repairs, the cash offers the City Council an opportunity to tell the story of the church and provide intellectual access to it.
Situated at the heart of Southampton’s busy shopping centre, Holyrood Church has been a focal point for life in the city since the 13th century. During its long history it was used as a place of worship by crusaders, soldiers heading for Agincourt and Philip of Spain in 1554 on his way to marry Queen Mary in Winchester.
Despite being hit and devastated during severe bombing in 1940, Holyrood has remained the official memorial for the Merchant Navy, as well as housing a memorial to the crew of the Titanic.
Photo: Holyrood is now a memorial and garden of rest dedicated to those who served in the Merchant Navy during WWII.
In light of its connection with the church, the Merchant Navy Association has contributed a further £5,000 to the repair fund.
"It’s important to Southampton that we celebrate our association with the Merchant Navy and that merchant seamen are able to remember their colleagues and careers in an appropriate high quality setting," said Kevin.
What is also important, he explained, is that "other members of the public are able to appreciate the history of Southampton."
The council intends to help them do this by installing audio points where visitors to the ruined church will be able to listen to historical recordings made by their Oral History Unit.
Photo: the Southampton City Council historical archive, including recordings made by Titanic survivors, can be accessed online by clicking on this link.
Dock workers who helped provision the Titanic, as well as some of those who survived its sinking, will tell the story of perhaps the world’s most famous ship. New recordings, to be made with locals, will recall the night the church was bombed.
Plans are also in place to put on an exhibition at Southampton's Museum of Archaeology, which will bring to life Holyrood's long history and any new information brought to light by the forthcoming restoration work.
"The Heritage Lottery Fund grant recognises the historic importance of Holyrood Church – and the part it played in the lives of Southampton people," said Cllr Peter Wakeford, Cabinet Member for Leisure, Culture and Tourism.
"Working with the Merchant Navy Association, we can secure its future and give the building a more prominent role in the life of the city while opening it up for future generations."