St Marie's Church in Widnes preserved for the local community

Runcorn and Widnes World: Roger Harrison, Matthew Roberts and Dave Clark inside St Marie’s Roger Harrison, Matthew Roberts and Dave Clark inside St Marie’s

A PRECIOUS Pugin-designed Widnes church is being restored to its former glory and converted into a valuable community resource.

St Marie’s RC Church, built in Lugsdale Road in 1896, has been lying empty and unused since it closed in 2007.

An ambitious project funded with a £1.6m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund was launched on Friday.

Halton and St Helens Voluntary and Community Action which provides advice, information and support for around 2,000 voluntary community groups and organisations hopes to move into their new home in May, 2014.

Former Halton Council leader, Clr Tony McDermott helped to save the church from demolition.

He said: “It was on the verge of destruction which would have been an act of vandalism.

“We managed to get it listed at the 11th hour.

“It will be great for people to see this building being used again.”

Keith Williams, development manager of Widnes-based developers Morbaine, said: “The altar is being refurbished and the marble cleaned.

“Paintings will be restored and stained glass windows repaired.”

Cracked wood in the bell tower is also being replaced.

Sadly, the organ has been damaged by vandals and would cost around £80,000 to repair.

Private offices will be built on each side of the church and pews will be replaced with tables and chairs.

Confessionals will become a kitchen and a new reception and toilets will be built.

Sally Yeoman. chief executive of Halton & St Helens CVA, said: “It will be open to the public every day.

“We will be organising special heritage related activities.”

Peter Finnay, aged 54, from Vine Street, who played the organ for more than 30 years, said: “It will give people the opportunity to see the building as it was in its former glory.

“This church played a significant part in people’s lives. Their parents and grandparents were baptised and married here.”

Volunteers are preparing St Marie’s memorabilia for a historic display.

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