Hard choices lie ahead for the historic St Chads Church Uppermill

Reporter: Ken Bennett
Date published: 23 May 2022

A community’s spiritual leader has painted a stark picture to her parishioners over the future of Saddleworth’s ancient parish church. St Chads Church Uppermill is coming to terms with a disappointing second rejection by the Heritage Lottery Fund to support their bid for £1m.

The St Chads community has an ambitious scheme to restore the building and its tower, roof and ceiling and reorder the internal structure. 

They planned to create a more flexible space to accommodate cafe and meeting facilities while retaining the character and worship of the building. 

Canon Sharon Jones: “Hard choices lie ahead for this historic, iconic grade 2* listed building.

“It is the custodian of the memories of a whole community, but costs are prohibitive without substantial external investment. 

“Over the coming months we will need to look at other options for Saddleworth Church as the present building will be unusable within five to ten years and will need to close. 

“Our hard-working and dedicated team recognise small grants will not resolve the issues. 

“And I’m afraid, valuable though they are, jumble sales and coffee mornings are just not enough to fund the widening gap.”

She added: “The Church of England is the steward of church buildings throughout the country, on behalf of the nation. 

“The majority of folk live under the misapprehension that the Church of England provides funds to keep local buildings open and in good repair. For all we would like that to be the case, they do not do that."

“The churches are maintained and safeguarded purely through voluntary donations, legacies and small grants. We may not like this or agree with it, but it remains the fact. 

“Saddleworth Church needs someone to invest in it, to see the potential and recognise the possibilities.

“For example, it could be as a shared cafe, concert and meeting space while retaining its unique character as a place for worship and, if the pews were removed, it would create a remarkable and exciting flexible space.

“We desperately want to keep St Chads open for the community, but it is only the community who can enable this to happen,” she added.

Known  as the ‘Parish on the Moor’ the church is registered by Historic England as a Grade Two building ‘at Risk’ and  was rebuilt in 1831-33 on a hillside above the village of Uppermill. 

There has been a place of worship dedicated to St Chad on the current site for 800 years. For further information contact Rev Canon Sharon via : Cofeinsaddleworth.org.uk

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