'Forgotten' Preston church needs urgent work to save it

A forgotten Victorian church, which has survived the large-scale demolition of Whittingham Hospital, is in need of urgent renovation to keep it standing.

By Brian Ellis
Saturday, 3rd April 2021, 7:00 am

St John's derelict and hidden away in the grounds of the former mental asylum, is said to have suffered major deterioration and is under threat from the elements.

Preston Council has given the go-ahead for work to begin immediately on securing the future of the 148-year-old Grade II Listed building before it suffers irreparable damage.

Plans have been approved to carry out major works on the leaking roof and masonry, together with replacing timber floor joists and panelling inside, treating dry and wet rot and removing the remains of the organ and pews.

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St John's Church has stood unused for 25 years.

A report to the city council says the repairs are necessary because of the damage caused by rainfall getting into the building over a long period. It says the problems "need to be resolved urgently to avoid further deterioration to the historic fabric of the building."

It also states that although some of the original fabric of the church will be lost, there is no alternative if the building is to be saved.

"This proposal provides a set of reinstatement and repair works that would halt the decay and preserve the building for the future," says the report.

"On this basis, whilst the urgency of the repairs will result in the loss of ‘damaged’ fabric, it is considered that this approach is justified. The repairs works are required for the long term goal of securing the asset which is considered to be a significant public benefit."

Built in 1873, Whittingham became the biggest mental hospital in Britain.

St John's was built in 1873 to serve the staff and patients of a sprawling asylum which grew to become the biggest mental hospital in Britain.

It was designed by prominent Manchester architect Henry Littler and became Grade II Listed in 1986 because it was an early example of his work.

When the hospital closed down in 1995 the church became obsolete. Yet it still remains while many of the other hospital buildings have since been flattened.

Hundreds of new homes are to be built on the site, with phase one, which will deliver 150 houses, almost complete.

The hospital closed its doors in 1995 and many of the buildings have since been demolished.