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It's 'Heaven' at the Chapel in Sutton Oak!

Heaven - Big Art Little Arts Project at Sutton Oak Welsh Chapel, St.Helens
Some would say that the 163 year old Sutton Oak Welsh Chapel in Lancots Lane is as close to heaven as you're likely to get in Sutton! Not only is it once again a place of worship and hotbed of community activity but there's few other buildings in St.Helens to match it in terms of its heritage. So it was quite appropriate that Leo Fitzmaurice's huge mobile road sign 'Heaven' should be exhibited outside the revered non-denominational church on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. It's all part of the Big Art Little Arts Project, which is a community spin off from the Channel 4 Big Art Project in Sutton Manor, which will be hitting our screens at the end of this year.

Pictured with Fitzmaurice's creation is
Paul Jones, the energetic chairman of the Sutton Oak Welsh Chapel Preservation Society. With his partner Caroline Owen and a small team of volunteers, Paul has worked wonders in making badly needed improvements to the building that was constructed in 1845 from industrial waste. As previously reported here, the restoration is a work in progress with plenty more to do but great strides have been made.

Ten days ago there was an attempt to break into the building which was foiled by Paul having spent 15 years in the security industry. Although the front door to no.2 Lancots Lane was kicked in, the presence of alarms and CCTV deterred the unwanted visitors.
"I was out of our front door and at the chapel in 2 minutes flat" says Paul after being tipped off about the break-in.

The Welsh dragon flag at Sutton Oak Welsh Chapel, St.Helens

   The Welsh dragon is back in Sutton Oak!  Flag outside the chapel's entrance.

Last Saturday night (26th April) the chapel held its Titanic Night with the New Street Singers performing, which went down well (pun intended!). More badly needed funds were raised to help in the preservation of the historic building and Paul and Caroline have plenty more fund-raising ideas up their sleeves, including an extension of their refreshments service. The chapel has been open for visitors every Wednesday and Friday for a year or so now with teas and coffees served inside. Now tables and chairs have been obtained and soon visitors will be able to sit outside and enjoy their beverages whilst watching the Sutton Oak world go by. A bit like the street cafés of Amsterdam, if only a very little bit!

Plus Paul is close to finalising arrangements for the resumption of the Sunday services with a number of Welsh ministers all keen to conduct non-denominational services. As Paul says: "The Welsh are back again in our chapel - great!!!"

Paul Jones with Heaven - Big Art Little Arts Project at Sutton Oak Welsh Chapel, St.Helens
Chairman of Sutton Oak Welsh Chapel Preservation Society Paul Jones with Leo Fitzmaurice's mobile road sign 'Heaven'

Sutton Oak Welsh Chapel Visiting Hours:

Wednesday 10.30am - 4.30pm and Friday 9.30am - 4.30pm.
The Welsh Chapel Arts & Crafts Group meet every Friday at 6 - 8pm


Brickfields £2m Makeover Well Underway

Brickfields construction site
Work is now well underway on the new £2 million Brickfields Community Woodland located off Chester Lane in St.Helens, that Sutton Beauty has been talking about since we launched 18 months ago (see our Brickfields page). The site has been closed to walkers for some weeks as a major operation to bring 11,000 tonnes of earth onto it has been taking place. This is so that trees can be planted in areas where there’s not enough soil covering. Small hills have also been created in order to give the site, which is the size of over forty football pitches, a much more natural look.

Ibstock brickworks in Sutton, St.Helens
New saplings are being planted with additional landscaping work set to create hard wearing trails. Local Sutton Manor and Lea Green residents are helping to design four new entrances for Brickfields with assistance from the neighbouring Ibstock Brickworks (pictured left). Twenty different designs reflecting the site’s history are being turned into a resin brick format provided by Ibstock and which will be incorporated into clay brick kissing gates.

11,000 tonnes of earth at Brickfields, St.Helens
Sutton Beauty uncovers evidence of supersized moles at the Brickfields site!
11,000 tonnes of earth have been moved onto the site
(photographed 15th March '08)

In May more mature trees will be planted in Brickfields, so that we won’t have to wait too long for a decent sized woodland when the work is completed early next year. A central avenue of English oaks is to be created along with some cherry trees and pines in order to provide variation for folk like me who tend to wander from one area of woodlands to another!

Simon Brown is the Works Supervisor for the Forestry Commission in the North West and says:

 It’s a real pleasure watching the site changing on an almost daily basis. When we’ve finished local people are going to be really pleased with the results. There will be plenty of opportunities for everyone to enjoy the outdoors, whether it’s walking the dog, cycling or running. The project also includes a 20-year management plan so people can be confident that this new woodland will be kept in good condition.

The latter is especially good news as it’s so easy for sites to deteriorate and become dumping grounds. Sutton Mill Dam is an unfortunate example. However, the Forestry Commission and their chums at Mersey Forest do have a good track record for keeping sites they manage in good nick. Completion of the project, by the way, is expected to be in March 2009. Sutton Beauty will be updating with regular progress reports.


Brickfields Community Woodland - Sutton Manor - St.Helens - Sutton Beauty