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28. THE CENTENARY OF THE CORPORATION AND BEYOND

Since 1974 the Government has leased all the conference and some of the office accommodation in the building, although, by special arrangement, the General Synod has been able to go on using the Church House for its regular London meetings two or three times a year.

However, times, needs and expectations change, and by 1980 it was realised that, when these leases expire at the end of the decade, the Corporation would have great difficulty in re-letting what by then would be second-class office accommodation when compared to all the new facilities available in Victoria and Westminster in particular and in central London in general.

In consequence, two feasibility studies were commissioned to obtain views on what might be possible if a decision were reached either to refurbish or redevelop the building. Ultimately, a scheme devised by the prominent architects, Arup Associates, was considered to be the most practical while remaining sympathetic to the building and its environs. However, despite a great deal of interest, the costs of carrying out the scheme proved to be too high and as 1986 drew to a close it was fast becoming apparent that a major development was no longer possible.

Naturally such a decision was disappointing to the Council and the members of the Corporation, but it was recognised that the costly scheme put forward, although making a great deal of commercial sense for the future, was, in the light of Church finances, running counter to the obligations currently being placed on the Church at large.

Sadly the redevelopment project was too costly for the Corporation to undertake on its own. It had been hoped that perhaps the Church Commissioners might agree to grant the Corporation mortgages, as their predecessors, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, had done in 1938 and again in 1946 (all of which were successfully discharged well within the periods of the loans). However, on this occasion the view was that to finance a scheme costing more than £20 million, to be expended on one prestige building in central London, at a time when the Church had so many other pressing needs throughout the country, would be inappropriate.

This was the position at the end of 1986, and so an alternative and much cheaper scheme was formulated: to house all the administrative departments of the General Synod on the Millbank site at present occupied and owned by the Church Commissioners.

No 1 Millbank.
No 1 Millbank.

The alternative scheme was approved by the Synod in February 1987, and it is planned that the move to Millbank will take place in the early months of 1990. The Church House building will then be disposed of and the Corporation's funds will be applied towards the cost of housing the staff of the General Synod, its Boards and Councils, and of accommodating the meetings of the Synod itself. Any balance can be used, subject to the terms of the Corporation's Charter, for the benefit of the Church at large - thus keeping alive the spirit and letter of the intentions of the small band of enthusiasts who launched the Corporation on its way in 1886.

From the Book "The Church House 1888-1988 - A Moment in the Life of the Church"
Published by the Corporation of the Church House in their Centenary Year