After months of silence, maintenance work is set to start this week (25-29 July 2022) on the iconic Hunslet Spire.
A full Council meeting in March heard from a deputation of local residents that the site was deteriorating and becoming overgrown. The Spire, the tallest in Leeds and a major local landmark, is all that remains of St Mary’s Church which was demolished in 2015 due to subsidence issues.
Clare Chapman, Closed Churches Officer at the Church of England’s Leeds Diocese, contacted interested parties this week to explain the works being carried over the comming weeks:
“We are hoping to carry out removal of the graffiti on the tower early next week. This will involve the temporary use of a tower scaffold to enable safe working at height whilst the clean-up takes place. Following this we will be undertaking a general tidy up of the site and grass cutting on the week commencing 1st August, this will also include some cutting back of greenery within the fenced off area around the tower, including around the war memorial.
“Following advice from our insurers, we will be installing additional safety signage on the fencing around the tower to ensure that the general public are aware that unauthorised access to the area is prohibited. Whilst we have no immediate cause for concern and we continue to undertake regular assessments of the tower, we are working with an engineer to undertake a more detailed evaluation of the entire structure. This will help us to better understand its current repair needs and identify any high priority works. We are hoping to carry out this evaluation in the coming weeks, but a date is yet to be confirmed.
“The largest scale activity on the site in the next few weeks will be archaeological trenching works, currently due to take place the week commencing 8th August. Through this work, we hope to improve our understanding of the past development of the site and how this might have affected historic burials. The works will be carried out by a team of qualified archaeologists who will be on site for around one week. This will include the excavation of up to three trenches at various locations across the churchyard. It will be necessary to fence off the area surrounding St Mary’s in order to secure the site and restrict access to the public whilst the works are taking place. Owing to the sensitive nature of the excavations and the proximity of the site to the public footpath/highway, screening will be used where necessary to limit public view of the works.”
Commenting on the statement, Kenny Saunders, Chair of Hunslet Carr Residents Association, told South Leeds Life:
“It is good to see progress beginning after 6 years. Hunslet Carr Residents Association have fought for the Spire from the outset when the church was demolished. This led to our deputation to the full Leeds City Council main meeting earlier this year which South Leeds Life reported on. The local community is backing the campaign to save the Spire and to find a suitable use for the surrounding land. Elizabeth Nash, our former councillor worked extremely hard to get the diocese to fulfil its commitment to maintaining the Spire and we all hope the council’s intended plans for the Spire and land will be followed to a successful conclusion.”
Councillor Paul Wray (Labour, Hunslet & Riverside) said:
“Cllr Mohammed Iqbal and I welcome the news that after significant pressure from residents, ourselves, Hilary Benn MP and our former colleague Elizabeth Nash – the diocese is now conducting maintenance work and the vital archaeological investigations needed to establish the location of any remaining historical burials and/or church foundations onsite.
“This information is critical to assess the viability of our administration’s plan, championed by ourselves over many years, to bring the spire into public ownership via the development of a Housing Leeds site which would include the spire as it’s focal point to ensure its maintenance for generations to come.”
Whilst Councillor Ed Carlise (Green, Hunslet & Riverside) added:
“The St Mary’s spire is such an important icon for Hunslet. We recognise that it’s a challenging site, but are nonetheless saddened that progress has been so slow on reimagining and redeveloping it up to now. However, we welcome this news that things are now moving – and remain committed to working with the Church of England and others to find a positive new purpose for this key local landmark.”