A SHAW church is under the grips of a ‘clamp’ – and its Reverend is delighted.
Work to salvage and stabilise the old Methodist chapel at St Paul’s on Rochdale Road has been ongoing after part of the roof collapsed in February, sending masonry falling on to the road below and into the neighbouring Hobble Wobbles nursery.
Scaffolding on the both sides of the listed building is complete and a structure will be put in place to bind the two together, securing the structure and enabling work to go on at a faster pace.
And Rochdale Road should be opened in time for the Easter weekend.
Superintendent minister, the Reverend Dr Adrian Burdon, told the Correspondent: “We worked on a deadline of Maundy Thursday in terms of getting Rochdale Road open again and everything is on schedule.
“Once the ‘clamp’ is in place, workers will be able to put up scaffolding and remove the rest of the roof of the old chapel and take down the front elevation to the point where it will not fall down.
“But we will not be able to leave it in that state when its handed back to us at the end of June or the start of July – we need to decide what to do with it.
“And, of course, things can still deteriorate, even though we’re moving into what will hopefully be summer.”
So far, the only casualties have been some of the branches on two nearby trees which have been trimmed to make sure no-one gets caught up in them when working.
As ever thoughts are now turning to that age-old question, ‘What next?’
Once the building is made safe, the Methodist Church will decide what the ultimate future of the building is going to be.
And the Rev Dr Burdon revealed the community will have a say in what happens.
He added: “We’ve been speaking to people and a number of themes have come up, some of the recurring like affordable housing and venues.
“But we’ll still have a church presence in there somehow, no matter what is done with it.
“We’re talking to councillors about what our options might be but we’re not quite sure what they are.
“The only thing we do know is that it’s not an option to leave it as it is.
“Things move quite quickly, so we’ll ideally need a plan in place for when the scaffolding comes down and the building comes back to us.
“We’ll have to move quickly once it does but we’ll need partners and finances for whatever is decided and that will certainly take time from there – we’d need people who are interested in it, then there’s planning and getting funding.
“I’ve not even got a figure in my head at how much it will cost to redevelop the building. We’re talking big numbers, though.
“We are giving consideration to this important question and the national church authorities are consulting with Oldham Council, English Heritage and the local ward councillors.
“We would like to invite comment from the community.”
According to Historic England, the chapel was built in 1863 and the Sunday School in 1871.
The site was shared with a day school until 1975, when a new school building was built.
With reduced income, the chapel building ceased to be used with worship moved into the attached Sunday School. The original chapel has been empty ever since.
At the moment, the congregation of St Paul’s is using the nearby United Reformed Church for services and will for the foreseeable future as the Rev Dr Burdon describes the work as ‘quite a long project.’
• Anyone who has a view on what should happen to the chapel at St Paul’s Church has been given three questions to answer:
1. If we were able to redevelop the existing buildings, what do you see as the possible future use?
2. What would you miss if the buildings were demolished?
3. If the buildings were demolished, what would you like to see on the site?
People can submit their response online: www.shawroytonmethodist.org.uk/contact.html