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Gloucestershire Business News

Breaking pews: Newent church's planning bid

A Listed Grade II church in Newent where worship dates back to 1846 could see resurrection as business offices and a community space.

The United Reformed Church on Broad Street in Newent closed last year and was subsequently sold by Perry Bishop with an asking price of £225,000.

Newent-based TJ Veale Construction Ltd, which has a staff of more than 20 and was founded ten years ago, subsequently bought the building and is now asking Forest of Dean planners for permission to make minor changes under listed building consent.

Director Thomas Veale said that the 700 sq ft rear of building, known as the old Sunday school, would be used as an office area for his construction firm, while in the 1,575 sq ft main church area he seeks "removal and re-purposing of the pews, so the space can be used by the local community and the proprietors for a variety of activities to include social gatherings, meetings, education and personal exercise".

A heritage statement indicates that the proposed work would include "Installation of a bar service area created from the old pews and pulpit."

Originally Newent Congregational Church, the building sits on the site of a former Inn known as The Lower Horseshoe and latterly The Swan. 

The listing notes the building's stone front elevation and brick side and rear walls under a pitched slate roof, while there is also a brick side extension (housing cloakrooms, kitchen and stores). The address also has a cellar under part of the ground floor. As well as the burial ground outside, open parking space caters for about 10 vehicles.

According to local sources, congregational meetings began in the town in 1843 when a room was hired in the High Street, the first recorded preacher being Rev Dr Brown from Cheltenham. Opposition to these meetings was initially so great that windows were smashed and constables had to be hired to control a crowd.

The church opened on 6th May 1846 and was built to seat 300 people. It became Newent's first non-conformist place of worship.

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