'This building could answer our prayers' - Victorian church may become family home - PICTURES and VIDEO
For two decades it has stood empty, derelict and overgrown – but now plans are afoot to restore a Victorian church.
Dating back to 1875, St Thomas's Church in Finchfield, Wolverhampton, was originally a school but that ended when its teacher was called up to assist in the supply of munitions during the First World War.
It became a small mission church and was used as a place of worship for more than 80 years.
Then, in 1997, the community in Finchfield and the church's 25-strong congregation were left devastated when it was closed, seemingly for good.
Plans to revive the quaint church – which is next to the Lidl supermarket in Oak Hill – have been muted in recent years.
That was until the married couple behind a contemporary independent church saw in the dilapidated building the opportunity to create a permanent home.
So in 2015 Terry and Margaret Wilkes, of Windmill Community Church, set about the mammoth tasking of devising how they could restore and reopen St Thomas's.
That has culminated this week in a formal planning application to Wolverhampton council seeking permission to carry out repairs and extend the current building.
Lidl are also involved in the scheme as it would provide the supermarket with an additional 10 car parking spaces.
Mr Wilkes, aged 69, of Wombourne, said: "We approached Lidl in 2015 and they have co-operated with us and the current owners have co-operated with us.
"We have got the full support of the local community association and there are local councillors who have given their support.
The retired couple hope that in the coming months they will have purchased the site and secured planning permission so that restoration work could begin in April.
They expect to require both grants and public donations to carry out the much-needed repairs, which include restoring the walls, windows, roof and main door.
Inside it is proposed to repair the church's tiled floors and install a new heating system.
Mr Wilkes, added: "To have the building as our home would be an answer to our prayers. It would be a dream come true."
A spokeswoman for Lidl confirmed they had submitted a joint planning application.