PARISHIONERS will bid a sad farewell to a historic church which was forced to close after being saddled with a £1m repair bill tomorrow.
A service of closure will be held in the grounds of St Thomas’ Church in Leigh with the Bishop of Bolton leading worshippers in a final blessing for the red-brick building on Chapel Street.
The popular place of worship has fallen into a state of disrepair since it was forced to close its doors around two years ago after it was discovered problems with asbestos and its electrics could cost as much as £1.5m to put right.
Although the congregation has merged with All Saints Church on Kenwood Avenue and gone from strength to strength, the final service tomorrow afternoon is still expected to be an emotional occasion.
Vicar and parish priest Rev Robert Dixon said: “I’m sure for many people Sunday will be sad, but full credit should go to the congregation as they have been very philosophical about it.
“We have lost one church in the parish but most people have moved to All Saints and the congregation is growing.
“It seems a simple thing but it started when a fuse went. I called an electrician out because it’s a public building and there was an extremely big explosion in the electrics.
“He then did a full survey and said the whole electrics system was unsafe. Asbestos was also discovered and at a series of public meetings everyone agreed it would be far too costly to repair.
“Estimates were more than £1m and even if we could raise that sort of money there would be far more worthwhile causes to help people in this parish than simply building a church.
“This has not been done quietly, there have been opportunities for people to have their say and I think everyone has accepted that sadly this is inevitable.”
The service, weather permitting, will be held in the field behind the church at 3.30pm tomorrow, with commemorations for the building to continue at All Saints.
The future of the site currently remains unknown.