Crumbling ‘hidden gems’ are added to list of places at risk

Faded glory: The Harris Institute
Faded glory: The Harris Institute
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English Heritage has sounded a red alert over the crumbling condition of two historic Preston churches.

Emmanuel in Brook Street and St George the Martyr off Lune Street have joined three other listed buildings in the city which the conservation group says are in desperate need of rescue.

The Harris Institute in Avenham Lane, the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Grimshaw Street and a Victorian terrace in Fishergate Hill were already on the Heritage At Risk Register from last year.

All five of Preston’s problem properties are among 71 said to be causing concern across Lancashire according to the latest survey. The others include Bank Hall at Bretherton, Buckshaw Hall in Euxton, the Winter Gardens at Morecambe and the Queen Victoria Monument in Lancaster’s Dalton Square.

The addition of Emmanuel and St George’s this year comes after surveys showed critical defects which require urgent action to rectify.

Emmanuel, built almost 150 years ago, has been found to have a serious dry rot problem which could cost a staggering £500,000 to put right. It’s future could now be in doubt.

St George’s, known as Preston’s “hidden gem” tucked away behind shops in Lune Street, is suffering from severely corroded metal wall cramps which need to be replaced.

The Vicar of Preston, Fr Timothy Lipscomb, whose parish includes St George the Martyr, is set to launch an appeal and a Heritage Lottery bid to restore the building and its acclaimed organ.

“In total I think we could be looking at about £750,000,” said Fr Timothy. “It is the oldest used church in Preston, built in 1723. And this is an age old problem. When it was built they used iron cramps to hold the fabric together and over the years these have corroded badly. A lot of Georgian churches have been knocked down, but thankfully this one has survived.

“I wouldn’t want to see St George’s pulled down. It is otherwise in very good order. In fact it is a beautiful church. The organ there is probably the finest in Lancashire – it is of European importance.As far as Emmanuel goes, the dry rot is very severe. It also has problems with the parapet on the tower and the east wall. Those are serious problems.”

A spokesman for the Church of England in Lancashire said: “The Diocese is aware of a number of its buildings that have been placed on the heritage at risk register.

“Emmanuel Church and the Church of St George the Martyr have many issues which need addressing and we are working with both church communities to help them respond to the situation.”

The register reveals that six per cent of all C of E churches in the UK are at risk. It contains a list of 887 places of worship in need of rescue and 806 of those are Church of England. Yet the C of E has welcomed the figures saying they are fewer than they previously thought.

The Bishop of Worcester, Rt Revd Dr John Inge, lead bishop for cathedrals and church buildings, said: “The fact that fewer churches are at risk than was expected is good news and testament to the hard work of countless people up and down the country who devote their time and energy to caring for these buildings.

“However, it is obvious from the report that there are still many church buildings in need of more love and care. This important work cannot be done by the congregation members alone and I would urge all communities to get involved in the maintenance of their local churches to ensure they are still there to be enjoyed and used by future generations.

“Our churches are a precious and unparalleled treasure.

“They not only represent an invaluable part of our built heritage, but they provide space for people to meet, reflect and pray - as well as serve their communities in all sorts of ways.”

A total of 72 properties of all categories have been added to the register this year, although 100 have been improved and taken off the danger list.