Sheffield church will be shut for months over safety fears

St John's Church, Ranmoor
St John's Church, Ranmoor
Have your say

One of Sheffield's biggest churches has had to close until next year on safety grounds.

Specialists have been called in to investigate at St John's in Ranmoor after part of the Grade II* building's 130-year-old painted ceiling fell down.

Full choral services and musical recitals have been suspended, and scaffolding will be put up around the whole church. Evening prayer and communion have been moved to the Ranmoor Parish Centre.

Church warden Brian Parfett said St John's would reopen next February at the earliest, and that the church's ceiling is decorated with 350 ornate stencilled panels.

"A piece of one of the painted panels fell down a few days back," said Brian.

"Fortunately there was no-one in the church at the time. It was unclear as to why it fell and a recommendation was made that we should investigate the other panels. There are 350 of them, it's a big church, and they're 15 metres above the ground.

"We decided as a management group that we should close the church for safety reasons while that investigation is undertaken.

"We're not best pleased."

An initial check found that a number of panels near the broken section were faulty.

"The whole church is to be scaffolded out, which should happen in the next two to three weeks," said Brian. "It's not a job you can do in 24 hours, it takes quite a while to organise."

The present building dates from 1888 and is the second Anglican church to be built on the site off Ranmoor Park Road. The original was almost entirely destroyed by fire in 1887, leaving just the 200ft tower and spire, the tallest of its kind in Sheffield.

"This ceiling has stood us in good stead," said Brian. "We've had one or two failures in the past, but we've realised why they've occurred. On this occasion the experts tell us they aren't able to say for certain why it happened."

The Bishop of Sheffield, the Rt Rev Dr Pete Wilcox, has given his consent for Ranmoor services to happen elsewhere, and families wishing to hold funerals at St John's are being helped to find other venues.

Brian said church members didn't know how many panels would need replacing.

"That's one of the dilemmas," he said, explaining that a plasterer had been employed who has previously worked on Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. "We're working with one of the top guys in the UK."

Extra care will be taken to protect the church organ and the overall fabric of the building.

"We're having the whole place thoroughly checked out and repairs undertaken where necessary."