St John and St Mary Magdalene RC Church

©English Heritage

Region: Yorkshire and the Humber

Local Authority: Barnsley

Owner Type: Religious Organisation

Funding Body: Heritage Lottery Fund

Year of Intervention: 1999

Summary: St John and St Mary Magdalene RC Church-Large grant for complex repair scheme of a place of worship in former mining community.

Description: St John and St Mary Magdalene RC Church is a reinforced concrete church dating from 1914 and it was the first church in the country to be built almost entirely in reinforced concrete, including the altar and statuary. This church is an early experiment in ferro-concrete construction, but it began to show some of its faults.
Issue: Unfortunately, the composition of the concrete allowed acidic water to leach through and rust the metal core of the walls. By the 1990s the Church was cracking because it suffered from a leaking roof, lacked proper drainage and there had been loss of glazing. By 1994 all the collieries in the area had closed and the village was in one of the most deprived Wards in the Region, with high levels of unemployment. Despite this, the small community of Goldthorpe managed to raise over a quarter of a million pounds towards the costs of the repairs to the building. However, it was clear that the enormity of the repair programme was way beyond their means.
Strategy: English Heritage acted as the Heritage Lottery fund’s expert adviser for the project. The condition of the concrete proved to be far worse than anticipated, particularly in the tower, and the final cost of the scheme exceeded £1m. Cost was not the only implication – advice was sought from the Building Research Establishment to help specify the remedial works to this unusual building. The Heritage Lottery Fund contributed 75% of the final repair bill.
Outcome: This case study demonstrates the importance of community in protecting and keeping in use a key heritage asset. Also that the use of specialist technical advice is critical to inform repair work.

Keywords: Grants, Repair, Reconstruction & Restoration

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