'Crumbling' Victorian church may close

A VICTORIAN church could close because the crumbling building would cost a massive £200,000 to repair.

All Souls Church, in Athelstan Road, relies on huge grants and the help of its small congregation to fund the day-to-day maintenance of the huge structure.

The listed building was fitted with boilers last year, costing 26,000, and the roof was repaired a few months ago.

But a report published in March outlined that a large amount of work is still needed, including re-wiring and re-pointing while the west wall and pipe organ also need urgent attention.

And with the chimney looking increasingly unsteady, causing the Berlin Road entrance to close for safety reasons, Reverend Kevin Mepham thinks closing the listed building is the only practical answer.

Rev Mepham, who has been at the church for two and a half years, said: "It is the brickwork which is causing most concern. They are hand-made bricks which have suffered from the sea-wind.

"We are now talking about the possibility of having it made redundant and having another church built on the site.

"We have repaired the roof and all the windows, but when you add up the cost of the work, it is beyond us, particularly with an average congregation of around 25."

Rev Mepham said it is not definite the church will close, but that churchgoers realise it is impossible to raise the money needed.

He said: "A feasibility study will be carried out to see if any parts of the church could be used in a new development.

"If results indicate this is not the case, it could be declared redundant. This would involve a long process of consultation with Church Commissioners, English Heritage, the Victorian Society, the Diocese and the Parish who would all have a chance to comment."

Proposals for the site would then be sought with possibilities including a small worship centre with housing or a new church.

The mosaic, stained glass windows and fixtures, designed by architect Henry Blomfield, could be moved and used in other churches.

Rev Mepham said what is needed is a building which can be used every day, by all the community, for a range of functions.

"I feel the time has come for church members to let go of the past and move forward to enable the work of the Church today to be achieved," he added.