Residents fight to save iconic church

Mike Higginbottom, Hendrika Stephens, Rita Stephens, Nancy and Alex West at St Hildas Church in Wincobank
Mike Higginbottom, Hendrika Stephens, Rita Stephens, Nancy and Alex West at St Hildas Church in Wincobank
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RESIDENTS are campaigning to save a landmark church which has been earmarked for demolition.

St Hilda’s Church on Windmill Lane, High Wincobank, has been subjected to repeated arson attacks and vandalism.

Church of England officials want to sell the red brick church.

A buyer has come forward wanting to knock it down to build flats.

An online petition has been established as part of the campaign to save the 1930s-built church. So far it has 40 signatures.

Mike Higginbottom, aged 64, who lives near the church in Firth Park, said: “Local people regard St Hilda’s with affection and don’t want to lose it.

“The inside of the church is a mess but it could be renovated and grants could be applied for from sources like the National Lottery.

“The church offers large spaces which could be used by community groups. It has toilets and a kitchen.”

Fellow Firth Park resident, Hendrika Stephens, said: “I would like to express my genuine concern at the plan to knock this incredible building down.

“I am an active member of the local community and can say I have heard of no public consultation process or dialogue to gauge the feelings of local people.

“It seems the physical position of the church, on a steep hillside, would make for rather awkward redevelopment.”

Martyn Snow, Church of England Archdeacon of Sheffield and Rotherham, said: “St Hilda’s was effectively closed in June 2005.

“The congregation was very small and unable to raise the substantial sums needed to maintain the building.

“The vicar was made assistant priest at St James and St Christopher’s Shiregreen and all services were transferred.

“An extensive period of consultation was started and various national bodies were involved.

“Sadly the building was repeatedly vandalised and subject to arson attacks.

“Eventually the building was put up for sale in 2008 by the Church Commissioners, who deal with redundant church buildings.

“A buyer came forward who wanted to redevelop the site.

“However the sale has still not been finally agreed and my understanding is the Church Commissioners have yet to make a final decision.”

He added: “After six years lying empty it would require a huge amount of work to make it safe and usable once again.

“In the current economic climate I would be very surprised if anyone had the money.”

■ Log on to http://sthildas.webs.com/ to sign the protest petition.