St. Mary’s to close? Wanstead shrugs

Picture Geoff Wilkinson

News that Redbridge’s only Grade 1 listed building could close, putting an end to 800 years of weekly worship, seems to have resulted in shrug of Wanstead’s shoulders.

Proposals that St Mary’s church could cease to hold weekly services, but rather have just 16 services each year, are being debated at a special meeting at the Overton Drive church on Sunday.

But the response to reports earlier in the summer that it could be put to radically different uses did not encourage church authorities that support could be rallied from the community.

The paper being discussed says:

A group of church members is attempting to address the pressures on the church by finding new ways for the wider community to use, and visit, the church. It is hoped that this year’s Wanstead Fringe can play a part in this process.

The church faces steep maintenance bills and a small congregation, though it must be said that many churches which do not have the same property responsibilities manage with smaller congregations and ministerial support.

The building and churchyard are beautiful and peaceful places at the heart of the history of Wanstead. The pews are “high box’; they are increasingly unusual and are actually listed separately from the building. The dramatic interior was – as was well noted at the time – the location for the opening shot of the Tom Hardy/Ridley Scott drama Taboo.

The meeting will be held on Sunday at 12.15.

  • The apparent indifference to the future of St Mary’s led local historian and author Greg Roberts to blog recently that there were echoes of the neglect which allowed the destruction of Wanstead House. He wrote: “In the long run, listed status will conserve St Mary’s for future generations, but doesn’t this whole episode smack of yet more neglect and a rather patronising assumption that the people of Wanstead will accept another loss in their usual stoic manner?”

3 thoughts on “St. Mary’s to close? Wanstead shrugs”

  1. While most of us are all for opening out these architecturally significant places for different uses , one estimate from a few years ago put the wealth of the Church of England at around £22 Billion (yes Billion pounds).
    Perhaps instead of expecting locals to cough up , they could spend of that on their own buildings
    without then needing to beg for yet more handouts from Government or the public.

    1. Nelson, you do realise that any figures of wealth include the value of buildings. Taking this building as an example, on the balance sheet it will be worth £millions but in reality it is a massive liability with huge cash flow requirements to maintain it. Your figure is completely meaningless in the context of cash required, unless you are suggesting they sell assets to fund running costs, which aside from being unsustainable, is exactly what is trying to be avoided – deconcecration and sell off for property development.

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