Future of Martinsville United Independent Church to be discussed at public meeting on Saturday, March 9

IDEAS WELCOME: Church trustees Mike Fuller and Julia Sugden in the historic Martinsville church, which seats about 50. Picture: David Stewart
IDEAS WELCOME: Church trustees Mike Fuller and Julia Sugden in the historic Martinsville church, which seats about 50. Picture: David Stewart

THE future of the 125-year-old Martinsville United Independent Church - known locally as The Union Church - will be discussed at a community meeting on site on Saturday, March 9.

The quaint building, established on Martinsville Road in 1894, sits on a block of about 1200 square metres.

It's administered by four trustees including locals Mike Fuller and Julia Sugden.

The church was patronised extensively up until about the 1950s.

"It then fell into disuse until about 1985 and was literally covered with lantana," Mr Fuller said.

The trust set about repairing and restoring the church.

Over the years, the trust would hold community events such as the Harvest Festival, carols at Christmas, and the occasional church service to help raise funds for the church.

That money enabled the trust to paint and re-pier the building, pay for insurance, and to have electricity and septic services connected.

LAST HURRAH: Mike Fuller and Julia Sugden at Martinsville United Independent Church. A public meeting will be held there at 2pm on Saturday, March 9. Picture: David Stewart

LAST HURRAH: Mike Fuller and Julia Sugden at Martinsville United Independent Church. A public meeting will be held there at 2pm on Saturday, March 9. Picture: David Stewart

But without a regular source of income from the building, the trust had long struggled to pay for the upkeep of the church, Ms Sugden said.

So the trust is now turning to the community for ideas and plans for how the church could become viable again.

Ms Sugden said the meeting would call for expressions of interest in the ongoing administration of the building.

"We feel this is a really nice community asset, but the roof needs repairs and that could cost up to $10,000," Ms Sugden said.

Mr Fuller said the main structure of the building was sound.

"A local builder has had a look and told us that the bones of the building are solid," he said.

One complication for the trust are some terms enshrined in the church's trust deed which restrict who can use the building, and for what purposes.

Mr Fuller said the trust deed was drawn up in "a very different time of social restrictions" which made it an unworkable document today.

"We are trying to get that changed [legally]," Mr Fuller said.

Ms Sugden said nobody wanted to see the building go. "But if nothing can be done, we might have to hand it over the the Attornery General, and they would probably sell it," she said.

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