POLL: Should 'Victorian jewel' church be saved?
THE future of an isolated village church near Boston remains uncertain after a Church of England judge halted its demolition.
Described as "a Victorian jewel in the Fens," St Paul's at Eastville has major structural damage and is at risk of collapse.
But the Lincoln Diocese has been told to reconsider its plans for the 173-year-old building, which closed for worship in 2007.
Chancellor Mark Bishop, a judge in the Church of England's Consistory Court, has ruled that an emergency demolition order on the Grade ll listed church could not be issued until every avenue had been explored.
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The judge said that an English Heritage report revealed 'serious' damage including the possibility that the chancel arch and cross beam supporting the main roof could collapse.
But he made his decision after a site visit and inspection of both the interior and outside of the remote building.
"It has been a much loved parish church as evidenced from the artefacts left inside the church with the dedication of book cases and a children's corner," Chancellor Bishop said.
"It would be a tragedy if it was necessary to demolish this Victorian jewel in the Fens
"Obviously, there are very serious problems with this church. And the Diocese must now move to draw up a plan of necessary remedial measures to secure the chancel arch from collapsing and taking other necessary steps to repair the church. Advice from specialists must be taken.
"If a plan is adopted for remedial measures and works of repair, then a faculty application will need to be made in the usual way."
St Paul's Church is a small early Victorian Gothic building on flat fenland 12 miles north east of Boston.
It was the last of six churches built under the Fen Churches Act 1816 and was completed in 1840.
But it hasn't been in use for six years because the dwindling congregation had no chance of raising enough funds for repairs.
Rural dean the Rev Peter Coates, who has responsibility for 41 church buildings in the Bolingbroke deanery, admitted that the court decision will probably only delay the inevitable.
"The reality is that St Paul's at Eastville is an isolated church with no worshipping congregation," he said.
"It's one of three in the parish – St Peter's at nearby Midville hasn't been used for many years and St Jude's at New Leake is considered as sufficient for the needs of the community. They were all built during the draining of the Fens at a time when a lot of people lived in the area and didn't travel far.
"But they are on very unstable land and St Paul's now has major cracks which means it's a dangerous structure. Following this decision, we're looking at the best way forward, but the future is uncertain."
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