Work on saving forgotten Preston church begins next month

Work to save a forgotten church in the Preston countryside is due to begin next month.

Contractors say they will be ready to move on to the site of the derelict and overgrown St John's Church in the grounds of the former Whittingham Hospital on September 13.

Urgent repairs are needed to secure the future of the 148-year-old Grade II Listed building which is said to be under threat from the elements and on the verge of suffering irreparable damage.

Wet and dry rot have been identified in three separate areas of the building, which also needs extensive rood repairs to keep out the rain.

But remaining pews and what is left of the church organ cannot be repaired, says a report to Preston Council.

The contractors estimate it will take at least six weeks to complete the repairs and make the building weather-proof until a decision is made on its future.

One suggestion is that it should be converted into housing as part of the huge redevelopment of the hospital site to accommodate hundreds of new homes.

St John's Church was built in 1873, the same year that Whittingham Hospital was opened. It was provided for the patients and staff at the hospital which, in the late 1930's looked after 3,500 patients, making it the largest asylum in Britain.

It became a Listed building in 1986 as an early example of the work of architect Henry Littler.

The hospital closed its doors in 1995 and the church has stood unused since then.

Over the past 26 years it has suffered from periodic attacks by vandals and the theft of lead from the roof, which has led to water getting into the building.

Contractors carrying out the repairs have been told they must keep a detailed log and photographs of any materials they remove from the church.