redevelopment of our church halls

A huge thank you to the grant funders, parishioners and friends of the parish whose generosity has given us the £500,000 needed to start work on the long awaited redevelopment of our Church halls.  We need another £100,000 to buy the materials for our volunteers to decorate the redeveloped halls, to buy furniture and equipment for the cafe and halls, improve the existing toilets and upgrade the existing kithen. 

Introduction & Background to the redevelopment of our Church Halls

Our church halls, located beneath the Church on Richmond Hill, had been neglected over many the years and overlooked in terms of meeting the needs of the parish and the broader local community. The extensive Church buildings front onto three roads in the heart of Bournemouth making our halls a focal point and hub for numerous outreach services. With the arrival of The Oratorian Community there is a strong desire to continue developing activities that work to build on this.
The Church’s distinctive architectural style is French Gothic, and grade 2 listed, and the Halls (beneath the Church) suffer greatly from a design and layout that could not have foreseen the standards and expectations relevant now. In particular, accessibility, noise control and image have been identified as key issues limiting use.

Our vision is to create a space that:

  • is fully accessible to all;
  • contributes significantly to parish and community life;
  • supports individuals and groups; and
  • provides an income stream.

The plan for our halls has been developed and guided by inputs from our Bishop Philip Egan, the Oratorian Community, the parish, the local community and external experts and consultants.


Bishop Philip Egan’s vision in inviting The Oratory to his Diocese of Portsmouth is for the Sacred Heart to be a “powerhouse of prayer, a focus for formation in the Faith, and a hub for the broader community in the heart of Bournemouth”.

The Bishop recognises the need for a permanent community of priests and brothers providing a centre for Catholic Formation and Catechetics for the New Evangelisation, and a hub for the community – particularly the needy – in this increasingly deprived town centre where the Fathers are also Chaplains to the University, minister to students of two dozen language schools and other student institutions, and where addictions to alcohol, drugs, gambling and sex enslave many into powerlessness and desperation.

Rationale for redevelopment

Central to the Church’s vision is how it sits as part of the wider community and the need to develop the Church halls to realise their potential as a valuable resource for the local community.

A simple make-over would not resolve the major limitations that prevent full delivery of the vision outlined by the Bishop and enhanced by the Oratorian Community and the Parish.

Key factors limiting potential are:

  • The Church is located on a hill and the halls have many different internal levels. This makes it impossible for users with limited mobility to access any of the current facilities. A key requirement of the redevelopment work is to level all the areas and provide full accessibility for those with impaired mobility.
  • The halls are connected directly to the Church as they form the undercroft of the Church above. Sound transmission in both directions limits the usage times for the halls as twice daily Mass and many other services have to take priority in this busy and extremely well attended Church.   Soundproofing will disconnect sound transmission and open-up the halls to extended usage.
  • The parish and broader community have limited opportunities to meet and socialise in a relaxed, affordable, and safe environment. While there are a number of commercial cafés and restaurants in Bournemouth  these serve neither the needs of the parish nor disenfranchised individuals in need of simple interaction with and support from others. Within the redevelopment plan there will be a community café defined to support and serve local needs.
  • Despite many enquiries from community groups, private hire of the space is currently very limited due to its deplorable condition, extremely restricted accessibility and lack of sound proofing. The redevelopment will enable greater use and generate income; the halls’ cosmetic appearance, poor acoustics and clear visibility are particularly unappealing.

Some images of the exterior and interior of the halls as they are now

Left Image: The perilous steps leading to the entrance to the Halls.


Right image: Once inside the foyer, more steps to access the main hall, and yet others to access the toilets, kitchen, Office, Shop etc.

Left Image: View of the main hall from the stage.


Right image: View of the stage in the main hall from the Richmond Hill window end of the hall.

Accessibility for community benefit is at the forefront of the redevelopment. People will not come in if they feel intimidated by the current depressing ambience and facilities. Everything will be inviting and welcoming.

We have developed partnerships with other charities and groups who share our passion to see the space used for training and personal growth of individuals, with catering and hospitality a sector of particular interest, given the central location of the Church and existing connections.


Working with Keely Tattersfield (consultant defining direction and identifying grant funding opportunities), surveys have been conducted with parishioners and the wider local community to understand their requirements to enable the redevelopment to be tailored to current and future needs.  This work was necessary to establish the renewed vision for the future use of the halls in the post covid era.

The key findings from the surveys were:

  • When asked what is most important to them 59.4% of people said a cafe/restaurant, 55.1% said a space which is very flexible and 47.8% said a space for small functions.
  • The cafe element carried through to the question about what an informal element means with 60.6% of people saying this is a space where they could meet their friends informally but with an organised cafe style element. 46.5% said a space to drop in for information and advice.
  • In terms of improving knowledge about the current facilities 63.2% said that improved external signage would do this and 60% said a more visible and accessible entrance.
  • 65% of respondents said that they felt older adults would be interested in informal coffee and chat sessions, this was ranked significantly higher than the next options which were all similarly ranked.
  • 56% of people felt that more volunteering opportunities for young people was the top area of interest.
  • There are 46 offers for help volunteering.

The respondents reflected a wide age range.

In response to the feedback, meetings have been held with groups that currently use the facilities and with groups that are eager to use the facilities, including:

  • Parish community
  • Local SVP group
  • Local council leaders
  • Alcoholics Anonymous (AA)
  • Narcotics Anonymous (NA)
  • COAST (a Bournemouth Council initiative supporting individuals of all ages to re-enter the workplace after illness or other negative life episodes)
  • Team Domenica and Autism Unlimited (both providing support to young individuals with autism and spectrum disorder capable of work and in need of support to enter the workplace)
  • Faithworks Wessex (A Christ-centred organisation providing wide ranging support in the local area)
  • Thrive Bournemouth

Based on feedback and continuing guidance from these groups a clear direction has been formed.

Building work requirement

The key requirements for the redevelopment of the halls are:

  • Improvements to accessibility by:
    • Replacing existing external stone steps with paved ramp access into the halls for wheelchairs and others with limited mobility
    • Internal floor levelling to provide level access throughout
    • Installing accessible toilet facilities (including one fully accessible toilet accessible both from the halls and from the Church above as currently the Church has no toilet)
  • Installing soundproofing between the hall and Church above to eliminate noise transfer
  • Providing a flexible meeting space where groups and individuals can come for events and one to one counselling and mentoring
  • Relocate and upgrade the office and shop facilities
  • Provide upgraded accessible toilet facilities
  • Provide refurbished kitchen facility
  • Provide a café space for all to enjoy.

On Completion

Our  halls will have:

  • Fully accessible facilities from the external road directly into the halls and from the Church above via a platform lift. The facilities will be accessible to those with limited mobility or those requiring wheelchair access
  • Flexible meeting space for groups and individuals. In particular this space will continue to serve the current support groups using the existing halls (SVP, AA, NA) and offer new opportunities for community groups, parish, and family events.
  • Hall availability at all times for parish, local community and other events, including those organised within the parish or through hire of the facilities, and charitable uses.
  • A community café serving snacks and light meals to the local community in a safe and welcoming setting, and including a delicatessen.
  • A shop selling Catholic devotional items and books, and items of general interest.  We plan to add unique and distinctive items to the range of goods sold in the shop.
  • A parish office with improved visibility and accessibility.

Our community cafe will be supported by external groups such as Autism Unlimited and COAST (BCP Council’s Community Outreach & Support Team) keen to have access to a place of work for individuals to gain valuable work experience and build self-esteem for long term benefit. The café will operate on a mix of grant support, sponsorship, donations and revenue from sales.

To see to impressions of our redeveloped halls CLICK HERE.