A derelict historic church which suffered severe damage following an arson attack is set to rise from the ashes as a new events space for the city.
Firefighters from across the city were called to St Michael’s Hill in October 2016 after a huge fire at St Michael on the Mount Without church.
More than 50 crew members took hours to extinguish the fire, pouring water in from the collapsed roof.
The church, which is more than 200 years old, had been closed since 2009 and was a well-known squat to many homeless people.
An investigation found the fire in the building, which was in Historic England’s Buildings at Risk register, was started deliberately.
In the years since the blaze, the Grade ll listed building has been left to decay – but now it has a new owner who will be working to restore it and have it open as an events space by the end of the year.
Norman Routledge was recently behind the restoration of Kings Weston House in the north of the city and will be restoring the ancient church after taking it over from the Church of England.
Clifton-based events entrepreneur Ian Johnson was initially chosen by the Diocese of Bristol to take on the project last year after bidders were invited to put forward their plans for the church.
However earlier this year he decided to step back from the project and give the opportunity for another successful submission to take it on.
Mr Routledge said he was delighted to get the opportunity to get the “beautiful building watertight and back in use”.
Speaking to Bristol Live he said that he would be working with Bristol-based Impermanence Dance Theatre and would be working to coordinate as many dance events as possible for the city in the new space.
But he said it would not just be dance events there would also be theatre and music performances at the space.
“We hope to have the event space up and running in about six months,” added Mr Routledge.
“The building does need some work. It has had two years of rain and snow and of course damage caused by the fire.
“But we have managed to save parts of the building which have not been too badly damaged and are waiting for planning permission to start work on the roof and a new floor suitable for dance performances.”
He said that scaffolding would be going up around the building in the next couple of weeks and his team would be working on designing how they want the space to look.
The majority of the restoration work will be paid for by private investment but there are also plans to apply for some funding from Arts Council England.
Mr Routledge also said he would be interested in hearing from anyone who has an interest, either in the restoration, or in using the building.
St Michael’s on the Mount Without has been closed since 1999 because of dropping congregation numbers.
It is one of the most iconic churches in the city, with a 15th century tower visible for miles.
The Diocese of Bristol has responsibility for seeking new uses for churches that close for worship.
Oliver Home, Diocesan Secretary, said: “We were fortunate to have some very strong proposals to recommend to the Church Commissioners when we considered new uses for St Michael on the Mount Without last year.
“When Ian Johnson stepped back a few weeks ago, we were very pleased to approach Norman to take forward his proposal which we were confident would have the support of the Church Commissioners.
“Norman has shown what he can do at Kings Weston House and we look forward to seeing the building have a new use soon.”