St Paul Old Ford | Building

Built in 1878, St Paul Old Ford is based in Tower Hamlets, east London. In 1991 the church building closed because of safety concerns, the the small congregation relocated to nearby St Mark’s. The congregation realised the St Paul's Old Ford building had an important function in the community - the building needed to re-open. The challenge was huge - the task of refurbishing St Paul’s felt unlikely.

In 1996 – five years after closure – the congregation started work to identify the skills they needed. The vicar and a working group reached out to find and secure additional support and resources from local business.

The Parochial Church Council set up a working group, who with the vicar set about agreeing a vision for the future.From this plans were worked up and budgets agreed.

The vicar worked hard to persuade the diocese, that the building and congregation had an alternative future at St Paul's Old Ford.

The group were also effective at persuading a range of funders - including the Heritage Lottery - to invest in a radically reworked and refurbished St Paul Old Ford, raising £3.5 million.

Eight years after setting up the group and thirteen years after closing, St Paul’s re-opened in 2004. The building featured an adaptable meeting space for 250 people, and four storeys of new rooms. Read more about the space here.

New partners moved in to the space to open a gym for people with complex needs; IntoUniversity set up work supporting young people in accessing university and St Paul’s café, a social enterprise opens each weekday.

The building welcomes 30 to 40 community groups per year hiring out space or offering for free – from Zumba classes to NHS clinics, neighbourhood forums to children’s parties. St Paul’s has become a central resource at the heart of the community it serves.

The small congregation that returned in 2004 has grown to around 150 people.

Today the vision from the congregation is for St Paul’s to be a place where people find physical, mental, emotional and spiritual healing. Welcome and hospitality offered, and healing encountered are themselves central to St Paul's mission.