‘Inspire’ – transforming St Mags to become the heart of TQ1


Congratulations go to Torquay’s St Mary Magdalene (Upton Parish Church) – better known as St Mags – for successfully applying for a grant of £138,300 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund for its ‘Inspire’ project. This grant will allow the church to reconnect the community of Upton to its history, its heritage and to the life of the diverse community of St. Mags.

Dating from 1843 St Mags is the oldest Victorian church in Torquay, built as part of the Victorian Urban Evangelism Movement. The building of the church on a rocky platform, gifted by Sir Lawrence Palk, and with the help of a large bequest from Charles Lawson was on the condition that “all sittings should be free, and unappropriated for ever”. In those days, in churches it was common to charge ‘pre-rents’ which meant that many of the poor were excluded.

The grant will cover essential safety and conservation work, mainly to the church tower and spire, which will safeguard the church structure.

The church community already run a Community Café, The Living Room, and a pre-school group, The Play Room, and the National Lottery grant will enable the church community to deliver additional services. These include free community and school art projects, an on-line archive, community garden, and historical fun days with partners Unleashed Community Drama. All these activities will bring to life the history of St Mags and Upton and will welcome all members of the community.

As a ‘curtain-raiser’ to celebrate the Church’s rich heritage with the local community, a Victorian Christmas Fayre is being held on Saturday 14th December with themed stalls, “Meet the Victorians”, games and free activities; all are welcome.

Rev. Sam Leach, Rector of St. Mags said that “We’re delighted to have received the enthusiastic support of The National Lottery Heritage Fund in this grant. The Church building and the community that fills it most days of the week, are passionate about the top end of Torquay town centre, wanting to help people connect with the Church’s rich heritage and history as well as the present life within. This grant will regenerate the building and enable eighteen months of wonderful events for the whole community”.

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Kevin Dixon went to Audley Park – now Torquay Academy – and South Devon College when it was at Torre. After studying at Birmingham City University, he returned home because there’s nowhere else quite like Torquay. He then became involved in community and adult education, completed a PhD at Exeter University , and started writing about the weird and unknown side of town. He now Chairs Healthwatch Torbay and is involved in health and social care in the Bay.