Wigan church’s sad fall from grace
There have been many ambitious plans over the years. One prospective buyer wanted to turn it into an up-market restaurant. Another an indoor mountaineering centre.
But 27 years since a service was last held there St Joseph’s RC Church, on Caroline Street in Wigan, still lies empty, ransacked and derelict, unrecognisable from its once glorious past.
The only remaining fixture of the church once used by George Formby is the bell which still hangs proud but is no longer ever heard.
The red brick building has been standing empty since 1993, when the Catholic Archdiocese decided to close it because of a dwindling congregation.
Church bosses applied to have its fixtures removed and the building demolished, but English Heritage slapped Grade Two listed status on it and permission was refused.
Built in 1871 on the site of an old Methodist chapel, St Joseph’s was once thriving, drawing on densely-packed streets for its congregation.
But, as the houses came down for retail and factory units, parishioner numbers dropped dramatically.
After demolition fell through, the church was put up for sale, although the Archdiocese was careful to stipulate what the building could be used for - a library, warehouse, or restaurant.
It was bought by businessmen Andrew Fairhurst and Bernard Ledwith but nothing came of their plans and today it still stands empty.