Work has just begun on the second phase of building work at the medieval church of St Matthew’s on Stockbridge Road in Winchester.

A new toilet will make attending services more comfortable for worshippers as well as for community meetings – and replace a grim, semi-underground composting WC. The new extension will include a baby-changing unit and facilities for flower arranging and storage. A second exit from the church will improve fire safety.

Since August the building has been shrouded in scaffolding as builders have re-tiled the roof and improved insulation. At ground level there have been internal changes to create a kitchenette and a community meeting space.

The rector of St Matthew’s, Canon Peter Seal, said: ‘This work is the culmination of our programme of improvements at St Matthew’s. New wiring and lighting projects in recent years have greatly enhanced the beauty of this building.

‘Now we’ve developed plans to open up the heritage of this ancient “shepherds’ church”. We’re producing materials for self-guided tours and resource packs for schools as well as running a research project involving local historians. We want the local community to embrace this building as a focus for social activity – as well as a place for worship and spiritual development.’ The parish is actively planning a range of celebratory activities when the building work is finished in spring next year. These could include a flower festival and an art exhibition. There are also plans for occasional musical evenings and regular community meetings. Anyone with further suggestions as to how the church could be used is invited to email the parish office on

Bishop Tim Dakin, the Bishop of Winchester, will preach at a special celebratory service at 11.15 am on Sunday 12 March 2107. Everyone is most welcome.

Based on information supplied by Ursula Payne.