Griff's call to save chapels

Chapel at Ince in Makerfield
Chapel at Ince in Makerfield

Two decaying former Wigan cemetery chapels within a stone’s throw of each other both figure in a new Top 10 of England and Wales’s most endangered Victorian and Edwardian buildings.

And the Victorian Society is hoping that by flagging up their plight, it might prompt someone to rescue them.

The entry on the 10th annual list published today reads: “On the road on the approach into Ince-in-Makerfield, a small town near Wigan, you pass Ince Cemetery. At the entrance is the old cemetery Lodge, Grade II-listed and charmingly restored. If only the same could be said for the two chapels found in the cemetery itself; also Grade II-listed.

“They were designed by Alfred Waterhouse, the architect of the Natural History Museum. Waterhouse won the commission as part of a competition and designed two small Gothic chapels, which unlike the adjoining Lodge, have been left empty and boarded up for many years.

“The council is currently looking at costing some temporary, short-term repair works, but the long term future for these beautiful chapels remains decidedly bleak.”

Victorian Society director Christopher Costelloe said: “It was quite a discovery to find two chapels designed by Alfred Waterhouse in a Lancashire cemetery, but such a disappointment to see the state they’re in. Both were listed in the 1980s for their architectural and historical significance, but that could be lost forever if action is not taken directly. If restored, both chapels would be a charming addition to the cemetery and something for Ince-in-Makerfield to be proud of.”

Comedian, writer, presenter and champion of restoration projects, Griff Rhys Jones, is the Victorian Society vice-president. He said: “The Victorian Society’s Top 10 Endangered Buildings campaign is now in its tenth year and over the years we have seen what a difference it can make to the future of Victorian and Edwardian buildings in peril.

“All of the buildings on this year’s list have local, even national, importance in terms of their history and/or architecture. To have let them fall into their current state is deplorable, but there is still time to save them for future generations to enjoy.

“We need local authorities and private investors to recognise the potential of these buildings and take steps to secure and revitalise them before it’s too late.”

The chapel in use for cremations today is at Lower Ince Cemetery. The two at risk are at the much older Ince-in-Makerfield cemetery.

Penny McGinty, Wigan Council’s assistant director for corporate contracts and assets, said: “The cemetery at Ince is closed to new plots and the buildings within the cemetery are not used. The council does however ensure that they are kept in a safe condition.

“As with all council assets we monitor the condition of the buildings but have very limited resources to invest in buildings and our priority has to be to keep operational buildings fit for purpose.

“There are currently no proposals to bring the chapels back into any use. If someone was to bring a proposal to the council about how the buildings could be maintained and brought back into use we would be very interested in having a discussion with them about it.”