No sooner had I posted a blog-article complaining that St Hilda’s Church, Shiregreen, Sheffield had stood a roofless ruin for six months than the demolition team moved in.
Within a week, March 10th-14th 2014, the building was flattened – an eyesore that need never have been an eyesore.
The earliest reference I’ve so far found to the possibility of closure is in 1993. As late as 2004, Ruth Harman and John Minnis clearly thought it merited an illustration in their Pevsner Architectural Guide Sheffield (2004), p 188.
By the time I became aware it was threatened and my neighbours started a campaign to save it at the end of 2011 it was far too late to have any effect.
This is what I’ve learned from following the fate of St Hilda’s Church:
- the Church of England’s procedure for disposing of redundant churches is ponderous, glacially slow and largely ignores the possibility that the secular community might resolve the problems of disposal
- local politicians, hammered for a generation by central governments’ stripping away of their autonomy, think in terms of solving problems rather than exploring possibilities
- the network of amenity organisations, particularly English Heritage and the national amenity societies, prioritises its concerns in terms of national perspectives, with a bias against twentieth-century architecture and buildings of purely local significance
- just as the churches declined because people think they’re going to be there for ever and never set foot across the threshold, so local people will sign petitions but aren’t inclined to participate actively in seeking uses for derelict local buildings
It was always on the cards that St Hilda’s would go.
One less twentieth-century suburban church makes the others that remain marginally more valuable.