It’s a year now since one of my neighbours started up a campaign – seven years too late – to raise awareness of the intended demolition of St Hilda’s Church, Shiregreen after I’d raised an alert following a news item in the Ancient Monuments Society Newsletter.
Approximately 350 people signed the campaign petition, few of whom had probably set foot in the building for years, if ever, but all of whom didn’t want to see it go, whether they valued it as a landmark, a piece of the local heritage, or somewhere with which they had associations through baptism, marriage or other family connections.
The campaign generated more heat than light, because the Diocese and the Church Commissioners declared that they had followed all the necessary protocols to consult the local community, which appeared to amount to sticking an A4-size notice on the church door for six weeks, and were on the point of selling the building to a developer.
Months later, the identity of the developer remains a mystery and the building still stands.
It’s easy to sympathise with the church position: Archdeacon Martyn Snow has pointed out that “…within a two mile radius of St Hilda’s we have six other church buildings all of which I would regard as ‘at risk’ ie the current congregations are struggling to pay for the upkeep of the buildings and if nothing changes in the next 5-10 years they may all face closure”.
Yet if the St Hilda’s building had been properly secured in the first place it would now be in better condition, and more likely to recoup the capital invested in it.
One very good way to send an unwanted building into decline is to leave half the windows unprotected so that the local ne’er-do-wells lob bricks at the glass and let the birds and the weather in.
And, ironically, if the fabric had been protected the members of the community who didn’t attend church and weren’t aware it was declared redundant in 2007 might have found a way to take it off the Church’s hands.
One less twentieth-century suburban church makes the others that remain marginally more valuable.
The failed campaign to save St Hilda’s Church, Shiregreen is featured in Demolished Sheffield, a 112-page full colour A4 publication by Mike Higginbottom.
For details please click here.