Threat to future of Preston's iconic St Walburge's Church resolved by Historic England grant of £250,000
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The iconic building, which boasts the tallest spire of any parish church in the country, is to have its leaking roof replaced as part of a major restoration project to preserve one of the city's architectural gems.
Work is set to start on the roof next month and is scheduled to be finished by March.
After that a phased programme of repairs will be carried out to replace the church's heating system, update the audio and lighting systems, protect the stained glass windows and redecorate the interior of the grand building, which can seat around 1,000 worshippers.
The adjacent Parish Hall, which is suffering from a severe case of dry rot, will also get a new roof to avoid a possible collapse.
"We are very happy to announce that St. Walburge's Shrine Church has been awarded a £252,210 grant by Historic England for urgent roof repairs to ensure that the magnificent historic building lives on for centuries to come," said a church statement.
"We would like to express our deep gratitude to Historic England and the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales.
"This grant will allow St. Walburge's to pay for a phased approach to the repair works, which consists of the renewal of the huge roof, coverings and gutter linings associated with the roof.
"St. Walburge's, in Preston is one of the most important mid-19th century churches in Britain. Exceptionally rich in detail, it is of the highest architectural design quality, acknowledged by its early Grade I listing (from 1950s)."
St Walburge's has launched a "sponsor a slate" appeal for members of the public to contribute to the restoration.
And the Rector, Canon Gwenaël Cristofoli, intends to hold other fundraising events such as a Christmas Carol Concert and a series of 'Spire at Night' events to try and raise £75,000 which the church needs to find for match funding.
Massive in scale, it is the largest non-cathedral Catholic church in the country and was designed by architect Joseph Hansom, who also invented the Hansom cab.
The interior is 165 ft. long and 55 ft. wide and has a steeply pitched roof supported by 14 hammer beam trusses, the wall brackets of which support life-sized statues of the figures of saints.
The rainwater leakage throughout the roof is causing damp and rot, ruining the church’s fabric and contents, even threatening the magnificent hammerbeam roof structure.
"This rapid deterioration of the roof has been caused by severe weather, numerous slipped slates and poor condition of the nails, as well as insufficient maintenance work," added the church statement.
"The roof is suffering from extensive ‘nail fatigue’ where the ferrous nails have begun to corrode and fail. Some of the slates have also begun to deteriorate through age.
"The Award from Historic England will enable St. Walburge's to address some of the critical roof problems. St. Walburge's Shrine church, however, needs to raise £75,000 match funding.
For more information go to https://www.saintwalburges.church and if you wish to sponsor a slate, click on: https://www.goldengiving.com/fundraising/sponsor-a-slate