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Endangered architecture: The fight to save Victorian treasures

Wolverhampton | News | Published:

A striking Black Country church is among the top 10 most endangered Victorian and Edwardian buildings in the UK, it has been revealed.

The vibrant red and yellow brickwork and towering spire of Wolverhampton's St Luke's Church on Upper Villiers Street, have been a landmark in the city since the 1800s.

And now the Grade II* listed building in the heart of Blakenhall has been named by the Victorian Society as one of the most at risk in the country.

The church, which was built in 1860 has not held services since 2009 and with repair bills of more than £1 million could eventually be demolished. The Victorian Society has published this year's list in a bid to raise awareness of the plight of some of the country's most important Victorian buildings and save them from decay and destruction.

Stephen Hartland, chairman of the Victorian Society's Birmingham and West Midlands Group said the church was chosen for the list due to its importance to the area as a whole and its pristine Victorian interior.

He said: "St Luke's was nominated by the public but was chosen for the top 10 as it's a high quality landmark building which enhances the whole area.

"The fact that it has such a well preserved Victorian interior as played a part. These are getting ever rarer as more churches remove their pews and fittings in a bid to attract new worshippers. Inexplicably, the Church rejected a grant from English Heritage towards fixing its problems and now simply proposes closure and leaving it to decay indefinitely.

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"We want the community to help the church find a new lease of life to avoid it being lost.

A formal notice of closure for the church was issued in August, which Reverend Richard Espin-Bradley, who has been the vicar there for 13 years, said 'came as no surprise'.

He said: "We've been heading towards this decision for some time, it is a great shame really. What eventually becomes of the church is of course yet to be decided."

All the top 10 buildings or structures were nominated by members of the public.

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Also included in the list is Birnbeck Pier at Weston-Super-Mare – the UK's only pier leading to an island – which closed in 1994.

Brighton's Maderia Terrace, a seafront walk said to be the longest continuous iron structure in the world, is also on the list along with a 1850s boat store in Sheerness, Kent, and the derelict Gothic Ladywell Baths in London.

Kinmel Hall in Wales, a palatial house dubbed the 'discount Downton' and Overstone Hall, Northamptonshire, now partially burnt-out after a fire are also included, along with the scaffold-shrouded Central Plaza Hotel, Carlisle, the long-disused Hunslet and Victoria Mills in Leeds and the deteriorating Tolly Cobbold Brewery in Ipswich.

The list was announced by comedian, actor, writer and presenter Griff Rhys Jones, vice president of the Victorian Society, who urged people in a video message to publicise the list because 'they are buildings that need help and we need you to help them'.

Director of the Victorian Society Christopher Costelloe said: "We're grateful to everyone who nominated an endangered building.

"All the buildings included in this year's Top 10 are listed buildings meaning the Government has recognised their national importance. These buildings illustrate Britain's history in tangible form. The Grade I listed Boat Store at Sheerness has worldwide importance.

"All of them deserve better than their current situations. I urge the public to help raise awareness of these buildings and help them to find the investment they desperately need.'

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