Recycling Heritage

Built in 1834 using local stone under a pitched slate roof, this church in Greater Manchester once served a bustling industrial town at a time when christian congregation was still at the forefront of English communities. The architect was Lewis Vulliamy, of the famous clock-making family, who used a simple Gothic ‘preaching box’ design with an eight bay nave and three sided gallery. Fast forward nearly two centuries, however and the architecture may have survived but the social landscape has vastly changed. Congregations across towns like this barely fill seats on what used to be fully attended services. The result is that despite its listed status and architectural merit, growing maintenance costs of more than a quarter of a million pounds has inevitably led to the Church of England putting it up for sale, along with several dozen former places of worship across the country in order to fight back against the accruement of debt as it looks to survive into the modern era. 

Unfortunately it is unlikely that much of its brilliant interior craftsmanship will survive, as in december 2020 proposals were submitted to be appropriated for residential use alongside hundreds of churches across Britain that are now finding new life as homes, apartments, offices, bars and shops. Despite the fact that the governments Listed Places of Worship Grant Scheme provides a VAT exemption for the church to maintain its 12,500 listed buildings, its focus has now turned to protecting its wealth instead, with riches wearing thin as outgoings now reach 90% of its $1 billion annual endowments. As it draws closer to becoming nothing more than a registered business, in the not so distant future, all that will be left of a once-dominant faith will be perhaps its most valuable contribution of all - its architectural heritage. With a need to be recycled in order to survive, witnessing these buildings in their original state intended for worship may become an extreme rarity in our lifetime.