TODAY the Observer launches a major fund-raising appeal to save a memorial to Accrington's greatest heroes and the beautiful historic church in which it is housed.
Officials at the 143-year-old St John's Church on Addison Street, which contains the poignant Pals Memorial Chapel, have reversed their earlier decision to permanently close the building which is in urgent need of repair.
Instead they have turned to this newspaper to help them raise the £50,000 which would guarantee the church's immediate future.
The closure threat aroused a storm of protest from our readers who deluged our letters pages with pleas for a way to be found to save the Pals Chapel, the town's major memorial to the gallant men who gave their lives at the Battle of the Somme during the First World War.
We are now urging those readers, and others, to help save a unique Accrington attraction.
You can help by:
- Making a straight cash donation or organising a fund-raising event.
- Buying a pack of specially-produced Christmas cards showing the church's beautiful stained glass windows.
- Making out a standing order to give regularly to the church.
Observer Editor Mervyn Kay said: "Our readers have been generous in supporting good causes in the past and I am sure they will rally round once again.
"It would not normally be our function to help places of religion but the Pals Chapel makes St John's unique.
"The story of the heroic Pals is so deeply imbedded in our collective psyche that it would be a crying shame if it was allowed to close without a fight.
"Indeed there is ample scope for it to become a tourist attraction, perhaps as part of an itinerary featuring places such as the Haworth Art Gallery, Accrington Market Hall and Oswaldtwistle Mills."
The church's fund-raising co-ordinator Karen Smyth said: "We are delighted to have the Observer on board and we are sure your support will make a huge difference."
She explained that the church had been temporarily closed because of electrical faults which meant it could not renew its insurance certificate.
This will cost much less to rectify than previously thought but a quinquennial report had been carried out by the diocese which gave details of all the repairs needed, costing an estimated £140,000.
An application is to be made to English Heritage to meet the rest of the cost of renovating the grade two listed building.
A feasibility study is to be carried out to determine how to make the best use of the church building in the future once the repairs are done and to meet day-to-day running costs. The congregation, averaging around 45 adults and 20 children, has been meeting in the St Christopher's High School chapel for its Sunday morning services.
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