Can historic Sheffield chapel still be saved?
A rallying cry has been issued by a community campaigner calling for a historic Sheffield chapel to be saved.
Experts have revealed Loxley Old Church – which was ravaged by fire – could still be rescued.
Community stalwart Ron Clayton says work to rescue the building would be ‘a huge step forward for Sheffield’.
The chapel is in a cemetery where many of the 2400 victims of the 1864 Great Sheffield Flood are buried and forms part of the flood trail.
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But Ron fears the work simply will not be done.
A council spokesperson said: “The council does not own this building and is not responsible for its upkeep or repair. We do require the owner to adhere to public safety and have pointed out to them their obligations under the Building Act to ensure the building is not a danger to the public.”
Historic England has published a report into the church, which sets out a series of recommendations to ensure the Grade II-listed building remains structurally sound.
Despite the church being ravaged by fire in August, engineers concluded there are ‘no concerns over the immediate stability’ of the remaining walls.
The report made seven recommendations to ensure the church, which was built in 1787, remains stable.
But following the report, concerns have been raised that the recommendations might not be honoured by the building’s owner as the report is not legally-binding.
Mr Clayton, who has campaigned to restore the church for many years, said: “It’s good news that Historic England engineers believe the church’s structure is stable, despite the fire damage.
“What myself and others are concerned about is whether this work will actually get done, or whether the building will just be left to crumble even further into disrepair.
“I just want to know whether the council and the owner will follow the recommendations in the report.”
The report sets out various recommendations, including: using scaffolding to support some walls; removing debris from wall tops; clearing out burnt timber and replacing it with new wooden supports; clearing vegetation from outside the building to allow access
Ron said: “If this work were to be undertaken, it would be a huge step forward for Sheffield.
“The church is a key part of national and local heritage and should not be allowed to crumble. It’s the oldest building in Loxley and a key point on the flood trail.
“A lot of the flood victims are buried in the church and it would mean a lot to those families if the church could be restored.”
A serious fire broke out at the church in the early hours one morning in August. It took three fire crews almost four hours to extinguish the blaze.
Since closing in 1993, the church has slipped into a state of dereliction.
Concerns about its condition has been voiced by residents and representations have been made to MP Nick Clegg, Sheffield City Council, English Heritage and the Bishop of Sheffield.
Loxley Chapel was built in 1787 and served its local community for more than two centuries.
It was closed in 1993 and the surrounding cemetery is wildly overgrown.
The Grade II-listed church was previously known as Loxley Methodist Church and Loxley United Reformed Church.
Upon completion in the 18th century, its consecration was refused because builders would not install an east-facing window for unknown reasons.
It was eventually sold at auction for Â£315 and became an independent chapel and, according to the Religious Census of 1851, had an average congregation of 200 worshippers by 1851.