Community rallies to begin restoration of Martinsville United Independent Church

NEW TIN LID: Trustees Julia Sugden and Mike Fuller pictured at the 125-year-old church in Martinsville, in February. Locals have rallied to restore the building. Picture: David Stewart
NEW TIN LID: Trustees Julia Sugden and Mike Fuller pictured at the 125-year-old church in Martinsville, in February. Locals have rallied to restore the building. Picture: David Stewart

NEW families who have settled in Martinsville are being credited with boosting a renewed interest in restoring the town's historic church.

The locals have recently raised more than $5000 for new roofing materials for the 125-year-old Martinsville United Independent Church - known locally as The Union Church.

And the property's trustees hope it's just the start of a bright new era for the church.

Trustee Julia Sugden said a public meeting was called at the church in March to gauge community interest in the building, and to spell out what needed to be done if the church was to be revived.

She was heartened by the response.

"The church was full. Quite a few people came," Ms Sugden said.

"There was enough people there who indicated that they wanted to keep the church going, so they formed an advisory group."

With the ageing roof identified as the top priority, the group set about raising the $5000 needed to buy the materials to replace the roof.

Some locals made donations, and crowd-funding has helped to boost the coffers.

Now there's some young people in the advisory group.

- Julia Sugden

Two local builders are installing the new roof for free, and so the first of a series of working bees was held on July 14. The volunteers plan to be back on-site with hard hats this Sunday to finish the job.

Ms Sugden said it was a promising start, but more needed to be done.

"Even after the roof goes on, the inside of the church also needs some work," she said.

So the fundraising is continuing. The trustees will apply to Lake Macquarie City Council for some dollar-for-dollar funding.

The renewed community interest in the church comes as a relief for the trustees who, for years, had struggled to raise funds for the ongoing upkeep of the church.

"We spent a lot of time fundraising [for the church] in the early days, with things like the Martinsville Ball and the Martinsville Markets," Ms Sugden said.

But with the same few people working hard to stage the same events, and asking the same locals to dip into their pockets again and again for the church, enthusiasm waned.

"Everyone was weary," Ms Sugden conceded.

"But now there's some young people in the advisory group and they're really committed to getting something happening," she said.

"I would have hated to see the church disintegrate."

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