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With God and the Heritage Lottery Fund on our side

The historic St Augustine's Church in Ramgate. Credit: .

I sat in a pew, a little over a mile from where St Augustine landed, to bring Christianity to these islands, and a few yards from where the mortal remains of the great architect Augustus Welby Pugin lie.

This was my school church when I attended St Augustine's Abbey School in the 1960s.

Not 'the happiest days' of my life, so this became a place of solace, reflection, even escape. I learned to love and cherish this holy space.

But, despite its heritage - named for the founder of the Christian faith in these islands and designed and built by the Master, whose fabulous finger-prints are also all over the design, fixtures and fittings of the magnificent Palace of Westminster - time has not been kind.

Restoring it to its Puginesque glory would take more than £1 million.

Me with vicar Marcus Holder. Credit: .

Father Marcus Holden and his team launched a Restoration Fund. My school friend, Andrew Sharp, asked if I'd help.

'Gladly', I said and we've done bits in the House of Commons, held dinners in Ramsgate and all manner of other things folk, trying to raise cash from folk, do.

Despite great efforts, we fell far short of that lofty target. Then we applied to the Heritage Lottery Fund.

A skilful presentation of an intelligent pitch that offered a centre for research, education and celebration, it caught their eye and an initial £82,000 winged its way in our direction.

Today was the 'Big One'.

We'd asked for £596,000 to complete the job, having raised some £100,000 from friends and supporters ranging from Andrew Lloyd Webber, via the Wolfson Trust, to the organs of local government - Ramsgate, Thanet and Kent.

The moment came in the splendid setting of the church and the lovely man from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Paul Hudson, 'he say yes!'.

Pugin's tomb within the church. Credit: .

Children sang - from St Ethelbert's school; others from the Ursuline College read from Pugin's cocky, arrogant writings - when you're that good you can be 'cocky' and arrogant'.

He loved this church; it was his retirement place of worship after a roller-coaster life of elation and disappointment.

We can now do what he would have wanted: restore its glory and offer a new place of learning.

His works and times, and Augustine's sacred legacy, will be our themes; and we will put right the place of worship that mattered so much to him.

What achieved it was a magical mix: great agencies of charity; local government, at its best; and the sheer, bloody hard-work of the citizenry. It proved a critical mass of kindness and compassion.

'Job done', no; the work is only half-way there. But now we have the means to finish it.

It was an honour and a joy to have been there.