St Paul’s Church, Chester on Top Ten Endangered Buildings list

Grade II* church on the banks of the Dee with stunning interior and stained glass in process of closing while slowly deteriorating

Photo Credit: Mal Vickers.

St Paul’s Church, Boughton, Chester, Cheshire (Grade II* 1876, extended 1902 John Douglas)

National architectural charity, the The Victorian Society, has included St Paul’s Church, Boughton, Chester, Cheshire on its 2016 list of the Top Ten Endangered in England and Wales. The stunning Grade II* church is currently going through formal closure procedures with no plans for repairs or its future use. Griff Rhys Jones, The Victorian Society Vice President, has urged people living near the buildings on the list to ‘seize the opportunity’ and campaign to save them.

From the outside you would never know that St Paul’s Church, Boughton, incorporates an older classical church. Architect John Douglas, who designed much of Chester’s famous Victorian half-timbered town centre, was a congregation member and rebuilt the complex in his distinctive style leaving little trace of what went before.

Described in Pevsner as “the boldest of Douglas’ church designs” the stunning interior retains wall paintings and wonderful stained glass windows by Kempe, Frampton, Morris, and Burne-Jones. The church is currently going through the Church of England closure process after the congregation merged with another church.

Repairs are needed to the roof and the electrics. Although the rear of the church presents an idyllic situation down to the river, it fronts a busy, unattractive main road. However, it has many enviable facilities such as a large church hall, as well as a reasonable congregation; lack of car parking seems to have been the main reason for the congregation abandoning their church. Nevertheless, this Grade II*-listed building is too important to sit empty slowly deteriorating with no plan for its future. Pictures are here.

Grade II*-listed buildings are described by Historic England as ‘particularly important buildings of more than special interest’. Just 5.5% of listed buildings are Grade II*.

The national exposure from inclusion in the Society’s Top Ten often focuses attention on the buildings which can help save them. For the first time there are no buildings in London and the South East on the list – where the Society had comparatively few nominations. The Society considers that the greater number of buildings nominated from elsewhere may reflect the more difficult development situation in areas like Cheshire. Full details of all the buildings in the 2016 Top Ten, and updates on positive developments for last year’s buildings, can be found in the notes to editors section below.

The Victorian Society Director, Christopher Costelloe, said: ‘I hope inclusion in the Top Ten will spur the congregation and Church of England to urgently set out plans for this building’s future and how it will be maintained until a new use is found. Urgent action should be taken to prevent further decay. Retaining historic buildings like those in the Top Ten is vital to maintaining local identity and creating places in which people want to invest, live and work’.

Griff Rhys Jones, The Victorian Society Vice President, said: ‘The nationally important buildings on the The Victorian Society’s Top Ten list are in dire need of help. Many of them are in prominent locations in their towns and cities. Following my experience with the Hackney Empire I know how difficult finding funding can be – especially outside London. However, restoring important historic buildings is worth investing in as it can be a catalyst for wider regeneration. I hope people living near these buildings will seize this opportunity and campaign to save them. Ultimately, it is the support of local people which will ensure that they are not lost forever.’

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