The Wesley Centre in Malton, North Yorkshire, has been awarded a grant of £78,000 thanks to the unprecedented £1.57 billion from the Government's Cultural Recovery Fund for Heritage. The Wesley Centre is one of 433 such organisations to receive a share of £67 million from the Culture Recovery Fund for Heritage to help with costs for operating, re-opening and recovery.  The grants will deliver a lifeline for the heritage sector in England with further support to follow for capital projects awarded through the Heritage Stimulus Fund.  

The grant awarded to the Wesley Centre is part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport’s campaign #HereForCulture - a movement that unites the public, Government and cultural organisations in support of cinemas, theatres, music venues, museums, galleries - and the nation's heritage.  This includes funds for famous heritage sites across the country, including Wentworth Woodhouse in Yorkshire to Blackpool’s Winter Gardens, Blyth Tall Ship to the Severn Valley Railway, the International Bomber Command Centre in Lincolnshire to the Piecehall in Halifax. The funds will save sites that are a source of pride for communities across the country.  

The grant will be used to help the large historic building in Malton to become even more Covid-secure, as well as supporting its operating costs and paying for urgent repairs to the iconic façade of the Wesley Centre, together with a new conferencing sound system to facilitate social distancing for meetings in the large space, and broadcast facilities to live-stream community events.

Paul Emberley, Trustee and Development Lead at the Wesley Centre, said: “This is a much-needed boost to our whole community in Malton.  It ensures the Wesley Centre can continue to serve the community during the pandemic, as well as help us build on the ambition to be an exciting home for classical music and events. Culture creates jobs and supports livelihoods and it's something that this pandemic has taught us is more valuable than ever.”

The transformation of the building into a state-of-the-art classical music venue and community hub began five years ago when the community came together to save the historic chapel from becoming mothballed when its roof was in urgent need of repair. Whilst remaining a place of worship, the final phases of restoration will feature a 550-seat classical concert hall and event space (one of the largest in Ryedale), with a café, and much-needed affordable meeting spaces for everyday community use.

Reverend Peter Sheasby, Methodist Minister in Malton and the Superintendent Minister of the Ryedale Methodist Circuit, said: “The Wesley Centre has been at the heart of our town for almost 210 years and its plans for sensitive transformational redevelopment demonstrates the spirit we need, to help safeguard what matters in our lives.  Music brings people together and culture enriches all our lives, and this building offers a place where all can gather. Covid-19 has shown us how much we rely on each other, and how we can pull together. As a re-opened place of worship the Wesley Centre offers a lifeline in these challenging times, with the hope of a vibrant future.”

It is expected that the final stages of the Wesley Centre project development will start next year.

Paul Emberley added: “Malton is rapidly expanding and its population is set to grow by up to 50% by 2027, and the historic Wesley Centre complex will continue to be a much-needed and well-used resource. We estimate it will attract more than 40,000 people a year, which will also boost the town’s visitor economy.  

"Alongside high-end classical concerts and cultural events, it will continue to be a place for worship, for weddings, and activities for young and old, the lonely and the isolated as well as offering drop-in sessions within a safe space for those at risk and on the fringes of our community, as well as those that utilise the highly successful Ryedale Free Fridge; we're delighted to have been able to support the Fridge continually through the pandemic and we expect to do so for long into the future.”

The iconic Grade II* building in Malton has been described by Historic England as having ‘national significance’. Opened in 1811 it is the oldest of just five surviving chapels built in England by the architect William Jenkins, who designed 13 similar such buildings for John Wesley, the founder of Methodism.