A year ago it stood empty and forlorn, a historic monument with an uncertain future.
Now St Ignatius Church in Preston has been upgraded to a cathedral for the Indian Syro-Malabar congregation and is set to become a jewel in the crown for all Catholics in the North West.
After winning a grant of almost £100,000 to repair it’s leaking roof, it is now in line for further restoration work to protect its special heritage status.
And on top of that there are plans for more community involvement through educational guided tours and visits by schools, colleges and the University of Central Lancashire.
The refurbishment news ends months of worry for local Catholics who, despite being dispersed to other churches when St Ignatius was closed down by the Bishop of Lancaster in November 2014, are still eager to see the historic building protected from decay and, even worse, demolition.
“We may not worship there anymore, but we still love the place,” said Moira Cardwell who was secretary at St Ignatius until it closed. “It’s a relief that it isn’t being left to rot.”
The repairs needed to bring the 1836 Gothic Revival church back to its best were identified in a survey by conservation architects. The most essential job is to restore the roof, work which has been identified as “urgently required.”
“The roof has reached the end of its functional life, with slates slipping due to corroding nails,” said a spokesperson for the Government-funded Listed Places of Worship Roof Repair Fund. “Also the rainwater disposal system is inadequate and requires urgent restoration work.
“Protection of the church structure and the beautifully painted interior is now of paramount importance to safeguard the decoration and to enable the long-term use of the church.”