THE Church of England is defying the recession to forge ahead with a £1m refurbishment and expansion of its conference and retreat centre in Frodsham.
Foxhill, in Tarvin Road has been a Christian centre since 1969 after it was bequeathed to the Diocese of Chester by Dr Lawrence Pilkington, a descendant of the renowned glass-making family.
But the main meeting room was too small to attract modern conference bookings and other changes were needed to ensure future viability of the centre, which enjoys an idyllic location between two prominent hills on the southern banks of the River Mersey.
Now a renovation will see the provision of en-suite facilities for the first time in 20 bedrooms; refurbishment of the chapel to give full disabled access and banked seating to give better views from the scenic widows and an additional large meeting room for up 100 people equipped with top-of-the-range audio-visual equipment.
A major aim of the improvement project is to maximise disabled access throughout the site. A new lift, which can accommodate wheelchairs, is being installed.
And Foxhill is considering taking visitors from outside the Christian community who simply want to soak up the atmosphere and scenic views and enjoy the centre’s hospitality.
The addition of nearly 70 acres of woodland to the site five years ago – a further bequest from the Pilkington family – has enhanced its attractiveness as a retreat and conference centre that has its own arboretum, featuring walks with panoramic views.
Over the years the venue has hosted a Korean missionary church to Britain; Christians from many parts of Europe; Episcopalians from the USA on pilgrimage to England; the Welsh Congregational Church; the Mennonites and the Church of England’s Working Party on Race Relations, which included Archbishop of York John Sentamu when he was Bishop of Birmingham.
A centre for many parish and diocesan events and training sessions, Foxhill has also hosted regular returning visitors, such as a Roman Catholic primary school from Kettering which holds an annual retreat there.
Visitors to the site appreciate its special spirituality and the commitment to Christian hospitality shown by its staff.
Warden Ian Cameron said: “We get comments left in our visitors’ book that are wonderful to read and many marvellous letters from visitors saying how much they enjoyed their stay here.”
Foxhill is preparing to re-open in February or March 2009 and be fully operational in time to celebrate its 40th anniversary as a Diocesan centre next summer.