Since the demolition of St Mary’s Church building in 2015 the residents of Hunslet have campaigned to save the adjoining spire, an iconic Hunslet landmark.
Today (23 March 2022) Hunslet Carr Residents Association made a deputation to the full council at their monthly meeting to make them aware of the condition of the spire and the failings of the Church of England Diocese. This is what Kenny Saunders Chair of Hunslet Carr Residents Association told the council:
The Spire of Hunslet`s St Mary’s Church is grade II listed and is the tallest church Spire in Leeds. Sadly the adjoining replacement modern church was demolished in 2015 due to subsidence but the Spire has stood since 1864 and this date can be prominently seen above the bricked up original entrance to the church.
It is very distressing and concerning to see the state of the Spire. One of the Tower Buttresses has been removed at some point and needs replacing to comply with its listed status. Vegetation is growing out of the stonework, windows have been broken and there is now water ingress. There is significant local support for saving and restoring the Spire. Residents are very angry about the deterioration and the mess of the land immediately adjacent to the Spire including the War memorial.
Although concerns regarding the current condition of the Spire and surrounding land has been acknowledged by the Church of England Diocese, it is their responsibility to provide the necessary maintenance to secure its future.
However no remedial action has taken place since 2015.
The Potts clock which I used to wind and maintain has not worked for the last 6 years as access to the Tower is denied. Our three councillors have ringfenced funds to automate the clock and reinstate the chiming bells when the structure is sound and we thank them for their continued support. However the water ingress may have further damaged the mechanism.
The Spire and surrounding land including the War memorials containing the names of 360 Hunslet men who gave their lives in both wars are surrounded by high metal fencing and are inaccessible. The grass around the site is overgrown obscuring the memorial tablets. This is an insult to these men as we are unable to hold our Remembrance Services in a dignified manner. For the last few years, we had to resort to tying our memorial wreaths to the fencing. We asked the Diocese for permission to tidy the site and cut the grass. This was refused.
As the years go by time will not be on our side. Leeds City Council has investigated the possibility of buying the land from the Diocese to build retirement flats on the site which would incorporate the Spire. A portion of the rents would fund the upkeep of the Spire once it is fully restored. This would provide much needed housing for older residents which may then allow family houses to be freed up. We strongly support this vision but our priority is the Spire.
Six years is long enough and action is needed now. We do not want the structure to deteriorate to such a point that the Diocese come back and say it is not economically viable to repair and needs to be demolished and consequently another historic Hunslet landmark is taken away from our proud community.
We request that Leeds City Council endeavour to put significant pressure on the Diocese to carry out its obligation to maintain and repair this Grade II listed Tower and Spire and its immediate area.
Hunslet without its Spire would be like Blackpool without its Tower!
We ask the Council to urgently consider this.
This post was written by Andrew Price
Main photo: Kenny Saunders addressing the full Council meeting
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