Work is under way to complete urgent repairs to the roof of a landmark parish church in east Belfast with strong connections to the celebrated Christian author C. S. Lewis.
St Mark’s Parish Church at Dundela on the Holywood Road this month celebrates 140 years since its consecration in 1878 and it has just received a £5,000 grant from the National Churches Trust to carry out the repairs.
The historic Church of Ireland building has suffered serious leaks and internal damage over recent years and the select vestry is delighted with the much-needed financial support from the Churches Trust in assisting with the completion of the repairs and keeping the building dry.
St Mark’s has strong connections to C. S. Lewis, who was baptised in the church, and with his family. It is hoped the five-week repair work will be completed before a flower festival on September 28-30, celebrating the early 20th century author’s life, work and faith.
The 150-feet high tower of St Mark’s is visible across the Belfast skyline, creating the impression of a large church. The church is used by the local community for services, and as a concert venue for visiting choirs and local schools.
There are regular church tours for visitors interested in C. S. Lewis, who spent his childhood in that part of east Belfast. Lewis, who lived most of his life in England, regularly visited the church as an adult.
Lewis was baptised in the church on January 29, 1899 and confirmed there on December 6, 1914. There is a stained glass window in the church, donated by the Lewis brothers, in memory of their parents.
The Rev Thomas Hamilton, first rector of St Mark’s Church, was the grandfather of C S. Lewis on his mother’s side. St Mark’s has been described as “an extravagant building”, reflecting deep devotion to God. On a visit the late Sir John Betjeman, leading British authority on architecture and particularly Victorian Church architecture, praised the superb structures of St Mark’s.
St Mark’s rector the Rev Helene T. Steed, said: “It is a privilege to worship in this wonderful Grade A listed building, but it has its maintenance challenges. We are grateful to the National Churches Trust for partnering us and providing this grant.
“We hope to welcome hundreds of visitors to celebrate completion of the work and enjoy music, talks, readings and magnificent floral displays on the theme ‘A Seed is Sown: A Celebration of C.S. Lewis and Faith in Harvest’.”