A WIGAN church’s famously wonky steeple is to be put straight.
Engineers say if the spire of St Catharine’s, Scholes, is left unattended it will eventually collapse. And now a lotttery grant is set to save the historic building from closure.
The only down side is that, unlike the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the skewed spire of Chesterfield Cathedral, the restoration work will be unable to retain the building’s distinctive bend.
A combination of mining subsidence, poor ground and the rusting of internal metal supports have given the grade two listed building its drunken air. And tests have shown that the droop in the spire - currently 5ft out of kilter - is gradually getting worse.
Work, however, began this week to save the building thanks to the awarding of £600,000 in Heritage Lottery cash.
This will be topped up by a Viridor grant and a projected £150,000 worth of fund-raising by the church in the months ahead.
Over the course of the year the top two sections of the stone tower will be temporarily dismantled.
The vicar, Rev Sam Nicholson, said: “We are delighted that at the end of the project the church is still going to be here. If permission had not been granted and the money not been made available, we would have had to have closed.
“We have got to raise money ourselves. Hopefully some will come back through VAT although rules have changed, and obviously we are also relying on the goodwill of people in our church and people outside.
“It is not just a building, it is a place of worship that is a sign of God’s presence in our community.”
Wigan architect Anthony Grimshaw has been working with English Heritage to discuss the various options and it was eventually decided that the steeple would have to be re-built.
Over the coming months the spire and octagonal section of the tower will be taken down. The remaining square tower will then be reinforced internally by the introduction of a steel framework which will also support the clock and bell platforms.
New piled foundations are then proposed with ground beams which will mean a new ground floor for the tower.
The remaining tower walls and windows are to be repaired, missing stones replaced and the whole edifice completely repointed and repaired. The steeple and octagonal part of the tower is then to be re-erected with a new cross-tree (metal support).