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Victorian church could still become Sheffield’s newest performance space, despite ‘astronomical’ costs warning

St Matthias Church in Stocksbridge
St Matthias Church in Stocksbridge

Plans to convert a Victorian church into Sheffield’s newest performance space have suffered a setback after it was claimed the cost could be ‘astronomical’.

But community groups who have united to breathe new life into St Matthias Church in Stocksbridge, which closed this summer, insist the estimated £190,000 price tag for maintenance works need not derail their vision.

The church would be used as a flexible performance space, under the proposals

The church would be used as a flexible performance space, under the proposals

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That was the sum quoted by members of Stocksbridge Town Council, which they said had deterred councillors from pursuing talks about leasing the building four years ago.

The proposals were presented at the last town council meeting on September 13, where councillors said that although they supported the idea in principle the town council did not have the sort of funds needed to bankroll a community takeover.

Chris Bell, of the Friends of St Matthias group, said he believed from initial discussions that the building remained in a good condition and any repairs could be spread over time to reduce the upfront cost.

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

“We’re still confident we can make this work and we would like to look at the list of works prepared in 2014 and see if we could manage the costs down,” he said.

“It looks like the building’s in fairly good nick and it seems the costs would be manageable.”

At the meeting this month, it emerged then councillor Alison Brelsford had looked into similar proposals in 2014 but was put off by the ‘astronomical’ maintenance bill, estimated at £190,000.

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Councillors also said there were already a number of existing community centres in the area which were struggling for funding.

St Matthias was built in the late 19th century for workers at the nearby steelworks owned by Samuel Fox, who initiated plans for the church but died before it was completed.

A closing ceremony was held in July, after attendances had dwindled to unsustainable levels, and the Diocese of Sheffield is now looking to sell the building.

Under the plans, the 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 and there are hopes the building or its surround could in future accommodate a railway station should efforts to reopen the old Woodhead line to passenger traffic prove successful.