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Britain's sacred ground resurrected and restored


Hartcliffe is not the first place you’d look for holy ground. A vast, deprived, post-war housing estate on the southern edge of Bristol – reputedly one of the most problematic in Britain – it long ago lost its major employer, a tobacco company, and then was told it was to lose its church, too.

But the battered community revolted: the brutish, decaying concrete St Andrew’s might not be pretty, but after decades of baptisms and marriages, festivals and funerals, it had driven roots into apparently stony soil. And, with a clutch of real trees of its own, it provided a rare splash of green.

Thanks to the uprising, it was decided this week that the site will see perhaps the most radical initiative to develop sacred land in England. An international design competition is to be launched to replace the defunct church with a new consecrated building and public park.

I heard the story yesterday from Martin Palmer, who grew up on the estate as the son of a former vicar of St Andrew’s, and to whom the community had turned. . .

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