A Victorian church in Sheffield has gone up for sale, with a price tag of £300,000 – and some locals want it to become a Wetherspoon pub.
St Matthias Church in Stocksbridge closed this summer after the congregation attending the once-heaving place of worship dwindled to a handful of people.
The building on Manchester Road – which boasts spectacular stained glass windows – has now been put on the market by the Church of England, with a guide price of £300,000.
The Star has already reported how community groups in the suburb united to prepare a potential bid for the property, which they hope to turn into the city’s newest performance space.
But it seems they may face competition from JD Wetherspoon, with some locals urging the pub chain to make the grand premises its latest branch.
A message on a local Facebook group encouraged as many people as possible to visit the company's website, where people are invited to recommend potential locations for new pubs, and propose St Matthias.
While some were all for a new Wetherspoon on their doorstep, saying it would give drinkers greater choice, others were less impressed.
Judy Butcher commented: “How low can we go! Local pubs have struggled for years. If putting a national pub chain in the valley is going to detract from these other pubs what on earth is the point!”
Wetherspoon spokesman Eddie Gershon appeared to dash any hopes of the chain stepping in, saying: “We always appreciate people supporting a new Wetherspoon pub. However, this is not a site that we are interested in.”
The Friends of St Matthias group is looking into taking over the building, which it has suggested could host shows and exhibitions, provide space for local businesses and even house a ticket office should plans for the suburb to get its own railway station ever be realised.
Members said in September they had not given up hope, despite the bill for maintenance works being estimated at £190,000.
Speaking after the church went on the market, Chris Bell, from the friends group, said proposals were still being drawn up.
“There is a process that the church goes through when selling off church buildings to assess the best methods of disposal,” he said.
“Commercial and community focused bids alike are taken simultaneously. This is a long process. We are currently working with an architect who will survey the building shortly from which a proposal can be developed. Our proposal may well include some kind of food/drinks provision.”
The sale is being managed by the Church Commissioners for England.
Once they have identified a new use, they must publish details for public consultation before the sale can go ahead.
The sales brochure describes the building as offering ‘numerous development opportunities’, highlighting how the property is not listed and has no graveyard.
Samuel Fox, who founded the nearby steelworks, initiated plans to build St Matthias but he died in 1887, three years before it was consecrated.