A HAMPSHIRE church which needs major repairs is closing today for up to three years while the urgently-needed work is carried out.

Members of St Winfrid’s Church in Salisbury Road, Totton, are gathering for what could be the last service held in the building until the summer of 2021.

For the next few years the congregation will be “playing away” – by worshipping at the home of AFC Totton.

As reported in the Daily Echo, the 80-year-old church needs a huge amount of work, including a new roof and a new heating system.

In a statement members described St Winfrid’s as “beautiful but poorly-built”, adding: “The congregation have taken the brave decision to close their building for 2-3 years for total refurbishment. In an innovative partnership with AFC Totton, the church will move to Testwood Stadium.”

It added that the Messy Church will continue at St Winfrid’s for the time being and Café Church will continue on the second Sunday at the Thistledonicely cafe in Water Lane.

The condition of St Winfrid’s, a Grade II listed building designed by celebrated architect Nugent Francis Cachemaille-Day, has been deteriorating for several years.

Now, with winter looming, worshippers are looking forward to holding services in a modern, centrally-heated building.

Work on re-tiling the church roof is due to start in January and will be followed by other repair projects, with the whole scheme expected to take between two and three years.

AFC Totton v Paulton Rovers, Testwood Stadium. AFC Totton v Paulton Rovers, Testwood Stadium.

The repairs have yet to be fully costed but previous estimates have suggested the bill could be as high as £2 million.

The refurbishment will be funded by the Church Commissioners, a charity that looks after buildings owned by the Church of England.

The rector, the Rev Chris Steed said: “St Winfrid’s has been in need of serious attention for a long time and it’s getting worse.“We feel the time has come to move out, which means we’ll be ‘playing away’ for the next couple of years.“Moving to AFC Totton will provide us with a warm building with room to spread ourselves. It’s a partnership with the club and is something we’re feeling very positive about.”

Club chaplain Simon Young said worshippers would start using the Monarch Suite on November 18. He added: “It’s important we’re here for all people, not just one particular sector.

"We all feel this is an exciting and challenging proposition which will really bring the community together.”