Fury as Wigan church groups ejected from venue

Angry parishioners have hit out at church leaders after community groups were suddenly ejected from a building used for decades.

Friday, 16th March 2018, 9:52 am
Updated Friday, 16th March 2018, 10:55 am
The gates are locked at St William's Parish Hall Ince

Residents in Ince say organisations such as a women’s group and a Guides troop were given just a few short days to collect their items from St William’s Parish Hall.

A delegation from the Archdiocese of Liverpool visited the Ince Green Lane site recently and gave the groups short notice that they would have to find somewhere else.

The Archdiocese says the entire site was closed in a shake-up of Roman Catholic provision for worship last year and it must now ensure that a disused location is safe.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

The manner in which the closure appears to have been done, though, has led to fury among those who have used the venue for many years.

May Gallagher, a committee member with the former mothers’ group, said: “They came a couple of weeks ago. We thought they were just bringing a surveyor to look at the building, but it turned out we had to get out straight away.

“They said we weren’t insured. We’ve been here since at least the 1960s. It’s just awful what has happened.

“We were flabbergasted. There were some meetings about the church shutting and a bit of controversy with some of the parishioners but we thought we didn’t need to worry about that and had just carried on using the hall.

“It was a shock to be told we had to leave. I thought they would have had a meeting with us.

“We’ve been there a long time and our oldest member is 94. You can imagine what it was like having to ring round and tell them all.”

Harry Warburton, who has offered some of the groups the use of St William’s Social Club, said: “The groups were basically given 24 hours’ notice to vacate the building.

“The mothers’ group is largely made up of pensioners who are in their 70s and 80s and they are devastated. I want some answers why this has happened because it’s not on.

“I’m going to put them up at the club but it is absolutely scandalous. I think they have been treated terribly.

“They’ve had a lovely fitted kitchen put in which we’re going to try to take out. I’m thinking of giving them the buffet room at our club to use as a base, but we’ve only got limited space and they are probably going to have to throw a lot of memorabilia away.

“Only a few weeks ago the archbishop was talking about planning more facilities in Liverpool. The only things they seem to be shutting are ours. It’s just ridiculous.”

Ms Gallagher said her group was so concerned about the situation they had emailed ward representative and Wigan Council deputy leader Coun David Molyneux about it.

The archdiocese has issued a bald statement about the closure.

A spokesman said: “Following a review of pastoral provision in the Wigan area the church of St William, Ince, was closed in 2017 and the parish merged with the churches of St John and St Patrick in the new parish of St William.

“The closure applies to the church building, the presbytery and the parish hall as the archdiocese has a statutory obligation to ensure that the entire site is safe.”