Bid to reopen Victorian church in Sheffield gaining momentum
A Victorian church in Sheffield is closer to getting a new lease of life as a community hub, with growing backing for the plans.
St Matthias Church in Stocksbridge closed in July after a huge decline in attendances at the cavernous building, which held up to 1,000 people during its heyday.
The Diocese of Sheffield is now looking to sell the 19th-century premises, and various groups have united in an attempt to save it for the community.
Another public meeting is due to take place next week before a report is presented to Stocksbridge Town Council the following eveningÂ seeking its support.
Under the plans, the church building on Manchester Road would be used to host plays and performances, and to stage exhibitions.
The undercroft could be converted to house small businesses andÂ the surrounding space could be enhanced to better connect Stocksbridge and Fox Valley.
There are also hopes that the building or surrounding area could in future accommodate a railway station should efforts to reopen the old Woodhead line to passenger traffic prove successful.
Talks have already taken place between the interested groups and the diocese and church commissioners.
The community takeover is being spearheaded by Chris Bell, of Don Valley Railway and the Friends of St Matthias group, who said there had been a '˜great deal of interest' from local organisations.
'There is a high degree of synergy between groups who met back in August about the future of St Mathias,' he added.
'Artistic and performance-based groups such as Beacon Arts;Â Inyerface, theÂ children'sÂ performance group;Â and Stocksbridge Music Festival can envisage the main auditorium being adapted as some kind of multi-use flexible performance space.
'Don Valley Railway, South Yorkshire Woodhead Rail Heritage Group and StocksbridgeÂ Town Council see the outside area around the church being developed to create a high quality public realmÂ linkingÂ Stocksbridge to Fox Valley and a future rail station.
'The undercroft, accessed at the rear, could provide units for small independent businesses to be developed, and Stocksbridge Energy GroupÂ wish the roof to be used as a solar farm to power the project.'
The public meeting will take place at Stocksbridge Town Hall on Wednesday, September 12, at 7pm.