ST MARY’S Church in Fishguard should be eligible for help from the Welsh Assembly’s Cultural Resilience Fund, according to the secretary of the town’s chamber of trade and tourism.

The £1million has been created to respond to short-term pressures faced by museums, collections, conservation services, archives and community and public libraries in the face of coronavirus closures. .

Churches are not at present included in the remit for the grants, an omission that Jeremy Martineau,St Mary’s representative on Fishguard and Goodwick Chamber of Trade and Tourism and also chamber secretary , says needs rectifying.

“I suspect that, out of ignorance or prejudice, or both, the role of tourism-related churches and cathedrals is not adequately understood,” he said.

“Our summer survey of visitors to Fishguard and Goodwick revealed that St Mary’s church was the second most visited attraction in town.

“Visitors’ comments reflect how they use their visit, enjoying the memorial to the 1797 last invasion of Britain heroine, the stained glass and the peace and quiet.

“St Mary’s church is open daily from 10-4 and is free to all visitors. If it were called St Mary’s museum, would it therefore be eligible [for support]?”

Cruise ship visitors also visit the church to watch a short, dramatised history in St Mary’s.

“We had expected 17,000 cruise ship visitors in 2020 from the 36 ship calls into Fishguard. This loss is seriously damaging,” said Revd Canon Martineau.

He is suggesting that if a church is open to all and dependent on visitor income, it should be eligible for support from the cultural resilience fund.

“That £2,000 is left in the donations box and that 19 per cent of the total income for St Mary’s comes from visitors surely demonstrates that this building is acting in every way as if it were an independent museum in addition to its other activities,” he said.

“The loss of this income this year caused by the lockdown will mean St Marys’ will be unable to meet its financial obligations to the diocese of St Davids.”

He is asking Nigel Davies, the Welsh Government’s culture and sport business support officer, to reconsider the current criteria that sets such churches as ineligible for support from the CRF.

“This building is used by the community for significant local events including the mayor’s celebration, Remembrance Day, concerts and exhibitions,” he said.

“Yes, the building also fulfils its purpose as a place of prayer and worship, but I would challenge the claim that it is ineligible for support because it is not called a museum. That is clearly unfair,”

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “The Welsh Government is recognises the value of historic churches to the cultural heritage of Wales and has been in regular dialogue with Reverend Martineau to advise of other potential support streams.”