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Ceiling collapse: Baptist Church hopes to keep chapel open for Christmas programme

Monday, 16 November 2015

The programme of Christmas events at Hope Baptist Church has been put under threat by a series of problems with the building. The latest involves a large patch of newly-plastered ceiling crashing to the floor on Tuesday (10th) just moments after a singer left the stage during a practice session. Church leaders are now working with professional advisers to make the building safe in time for a line-up of seasonal events.

Baptist Chapel

Hope Baptist Church has just started a phase of Heritage Lottery funded repairs that will complete nearly £1 million of work on its impressive landmark chapel in the centre of Hebden Bridge. But over the last few months, attention has been diverted by problems that have emerged with repair work completed less than two years ago. This includes failure to identify dry rot in one of the main timbers spanning the chapel, causing severe cracking in the ceiling, and failure to repair one of the gable ends, resulting in water pouring down the walls behind the pulpit. The latest problem with ceiling plasterwork has led to the chapel to being temporarily closed, although use of the community rooms at the rear of the building is unaffected.

Church member Gerard Listontold the HebWeb, 'This is a frustrating setback after all our hard work to provide this town with a unique sanctuary space and to plan an inclusive programme of events and activities focusing on spiritual and emotional wellbeing. It is poignant that this should happen just before we publicise a programme of Christmas events that includes a Christmas tree festival, various choral activities and a Candlelit carol service. We are working hard with our current architect and engineer and seeking advice from Historic England to make the building safe.'

The church has had to cope with other problems during its journey to turn the old Pennine chapel into a unique and valuable community asset.

Flooding in 2012 ruined a set of new boilers the required rewiring of the whole building. Even though the church only has around 20 members, it has attracted financial support from two dozen organisations and now regularly hosts events with audiences of over 200. The latest tongue-in-cheek poster is typical of publicity that has informed passers-by about what is happening in the old chapel building.

Gerard Liston added, 'It is important that we investigate causes of the problems and hold people to account for poor workmanship, not least because £400,000 of public money has been invested in this building. But our current priority is to get the chapel open for Christmas.

We have worked with our friends at the Methodist Church to relocate a choir event this weekend and organisers of the 'Alternative Christmas Concert' on 22nd November are planning to squeeze into our community rooms at the back. We would simply ask the people of Hebden Bridge to bear with us at this challenging time and thank them for their support.'

See Hope Baptist Church website