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The fight begins to prevent demolition of an historic Sussex church

The Victorian Society is strongly opposing moves to close a Grade-II listed church in Bexhill-on-sea.

The society is concerned that the application has been prompted by an offer from the local Primary Care Trust to buy the site from the Church of England and redevelop it for health and community use. Under these outline plans the historic Church of St Barnabas will be demolished.

The church, which was designed by Sir Arthur Blomfield in 1891, is still in good condition, despite a fire four years ago which caused some damage to the roof. Many of its original fittings still survive and the building's listing means it is considered of national importance. Any application to demolish it will be fiercely opposed.

'Closing the building is a drastic move to make before any plans for the site have been fully drawn up, let alone agreed upon' said Heloise Brown, Conservation Adviser for the Victorian Society. 'While its future is debated it must remain open for worship; only vandals and thieves will benefit if a church like this one sits empty and unused.'

Recent history

The past four years have been difficult for the Church of St Barnabas; first there was a suspected arson attack which led to a fire in the roof; then two years ago the former vicar, Colin Pritchard resigned. He was later charged and then imprisoned for sex crimes involving children. For the last two years the church has been without a vicar. As a result the congregation has dwindled to around thirty regular worshippers.

Last month a new parish priest, Revd Dr Roger Crossthwaite was finally appointed. He believes there is ‘huge potential to grow the congregation' in Bexhill.

In the interests of the future of this historic church the Victorian Society believes the congregation of St Barnabas must be allowed to continue to worship there.

 

Thursday 11 June, 2009

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