Huge church founded by Sheffield steel magnate will shut after big farewell celebration

Rev Hilda Isaacson and John Dobson at St Matthias Church in Stocksbridge
Rev Hilda Isaacson and John Dobson at St Matthias Church in Stocksbridge
0
Have your say

One of Sheffield's largest churches will close this month after a dwindling congregation left the building unsustainable - but not before one last big celebration.

St Matthias Church in Stocksbridge has some 500 seats and the history books show it once attracted up to 1,000 people, but attendance has dropped sharply to as few as 15 worshippers.

Inside the church

Inside the church

The grand building on Manchester Road, with its splendid stained glass windows, is being sold by the Diocese of Sheffield.

But before that a farewell celebration is being held, at which those involved with the church want to see as many as possible of the hundreds of people who were christened, confirmed and married there over the years.

The Bishop of Sheffield, the Right Reverend Dr Pete Wilcox, will lead the special service on Wednesday, July 18, at 7.30pm, and past vicars have been invited to join the final hurrah.

Church warden John Dobson said: "It's the biggest church in the district, with the smallest congregation, and sadly we just couldn't afford to run it anymore.

The church's impressive stained glass windows

The church's impressive stained glass windows

"For the past two years we've had a monthly service, which a retired clergyman kindly volunteered to hold, but we were lucky if we had 20 people turning up.

"It's always hosted the Remembrance Sunday commemorations, where you get 300-400 people, and major funerals - no matter what the denomination - have been held there because it's the only place around here which is large enough.

"It would be great to see as many people as possible at the final celebration, especially those who have been christened, confirmed or married here and for whom the church has a special place in their hearts."

Samuel Fox, who founded the nearby steelworks, initiated plans to build St Matthias but never got to see it completed as he died in 1887, three years before it was consecrated.

The farewell service will take place next Wednesday, July 18, at 7.30pm

The farewell service will take place next Wednesday, July 18, at 7.30pm

The church was completed in the businessman's memory under the auspices of his son William, at a cost of around £5,000.

Its last permanent vicar was Catherine Barnard.

Mr Dobson said he understood the building was most likely to be converted into flats but the diocese had given assurances the stained glass windows would be preserved.

"As long as it doesn't become a carpet warehouse, I don't mind," he added.

After its closures, remaining members of the congregation will instead be able to use St John the Evangelist in Deepcar or St Mary's in Bolsterstone.