PLACES OF WORSHIP: THE CHALLENGE OF CONTINUING USE

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1 PLACES OF WORSHIP: THE CHALLENGE OF CONTINUING USE St. Werburgh s Seminar Michael O Boyle B.Arch MUBC MRIAI Bluett & O Donoghue Architects The Coach House, Dublin Castle 23 rd November 2010

2 THE CHALLENGE OF CONTINUING USE Introduction & context Church redundancy flow chart (2004) Relevant examples

3 INTRODUCTION & CONTEXT

4 INTRODUCTION & CONTEXT

5 INTRODUCTION & CONTEXT Problems with roofs windows and with stonework

6 INTRODUCTION & CONTEXT Problems with water ingress

7 INTRODUCTION & CONTEXT Problems with the previous use of inappropriate materials

8 INTRODUCTION & CONTEXT Problems with the cost of heating

9 INTRODUCTION & CONTEXT Problems with underuse

10 CHURCH REDUNDANCY FLOW CHART

11 CHURCH REDUNDANCY FLOW CHART The Heritage Council identified the problem of under-use and eventual redundancy in church buildings as a major issue that would face all denominations during the first half of the 21 st Century. This presents major challenges and risks to an important group of buildings that are part of Ireland s architectural and artistic heritage. A working group was established by the Heritage Council in January 2004 to examine this issue. The group met several times over a three month period. One of the key points that emerged from the discussion was the importance of early identification. This gives churches, parishes and organisations time to act. A flow chart was developed to assist parish groups, select vestries, etc. in working through the issues.

12 CHURCH REDUNDANCY FLOW CHART SOME IMPORTANT POINTS: The outcome was not predetermined by using the flow chart, parish groups were not placing their building on an irreversible path to redundancy. The flow chart is all about forward planning. The identification of stakeholders was vitally important. There may be useful contacts and allies within the wider community who would be able and willing to help. The significance of the building is a key factor. There are a range of outcomes including continued use as a place of worship; shared used; the identification of appropriate new uses; temporary mothballing until a new use is found; and redundancy.

13 CHURCH REDUNDANCY FLOW CHART

14 RELEVANT EXAMPLES

15 RELEVANT EXAMPLES Case study of Eglish Church, Co. Offaly Case study of a cluster of churches in Co. Laois Identification of examples of appropriate and inappropriate new uses. Buildings I have encountered since 2004

16 EGLISH CHURCH Eglish Church, Co. Offaly The church has been redundant since c Falling populations and a preference on the part of some families to attend the church in nearby Birr triggered the redundancy. Eglish Church Restoration Group Ltd. acquired the building in 2000 as a short term protective measure. The group were actively searching for an appropriate new use for the building.

17 EGLISH CHURCH Consultation with stakeholders: Local families (both C. of I. and R.C. who are known to have relatives buried in the church graveyard) Graves Department of Offaly Co. Council (who are responsible for the care and upkeep of the graveyard) Planning Department and Conservation Officer of Offaly Co. Council The Heritage Council (who funded an earlier report on the building by Chris Southgate & Assoc. and who have facilitated the current exercise) The Department of Environment Heritage and Local Government (the site appears to contain the remains of pre-1700 buildings and is likely to be rich in archaeology) West Offaly Partnership (who donated funds that were used to purchase the church from the RCB) Local benefactors of the Eglish Church Restoration Group Ltd. The Representative Church Body of the Church of Ireland FAS (who previously carried out maintenance work on the church) Shannon Development; The Leader Programme; etc

18 Significance: EGLISH CHURCH Building: The building is a relatively simple single volume nineteenth century church with attractive and important features including the limestone rubble walls, leaded clear glass windows, plaster ceiling cornice, fixed pews and a timber pulpit. Although simple in design, it has architectural significance that merits its inclusion on the Record of Protected Structures. Setting: Eglish has been an important ecclesiastical site from early Christian times. The church grounds include the remains of several earlier churches and adjoin the medieval Eglish Castle. The church sits on relatively spacious grounds, which are entirely occupied by graves, which probably date back to early Christian times. The site contains a number of mature trees and a range of other plants. Fittings: The fittings include fixed timber pews and a pulpit. There is a small nineteenth century organ, which is poor repair. The interior is plainly detailed and does not feature any notable memorials.

19 EGLISH CHURCH The early strands of the flow chart were followed but were not all directly relevant as the church was no longer in use Put preventative maintenance regime in place The restoration group currently undertakes a limit amount of preventative maintenance. This should be formalised and a system of regular maintenance checks should be put in place. Explore a shared use Not applicable Decide to continue use infrequently Not applicable

20 EGLISH CHURCH The Eglish Church Restoration Group Ltd. were committed to the search for an appropriate new use. The case study looked at the appropriateness of the following potential new uses. Religious use by another denomination. Chapel of rest Venue for secular events Artists residence & studio Non-licenced restaurant & café Small office Private residence

21 EGLISH CHURCH The appropriateness of the above (and any other) new uses would need to be carefully assessed in consultation with the relevant parties identified at the top of the flow chart as appropriate. The owners should engage a conservation architect to advise them during this process. There is a real risk that the church could fall into rapid neglect and decline if a purchaser is unable to obtain planning permission and/or a fire safety certificate for their proposed use. In view of the complexities of the site particularly drainage, water supply, and parking the sale of the property should be conditional on the purchaser obtaining planning permission and a fire safety certificate. The current regime of mothballing will continue indefinitely until a purchaser or tenant for an appropriate new use emerges.

22 CLUSTER OF CHURCHES IN COUNTY LAOIS

23 CLUSTER OF CHURCHES IN COUNTY LAOIS One of the churches was constructed in the 1970 s and was of limited architectural or historical significance. The remaining four churches and the parish hall date from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries (possibly earlier in one case) and are buildings of architectural significance. The case study was intended to use this cluster to test the usefulness of the flow chart as a mechanism for assessing the issues affecting a cluster of churches in a parish where the closure of a number of churches appears to be inevitable. The buildings were reviewed collectively so that the range of issues facing each church could be viewed in comparison with the other churches. The parish hall was included in the interests of compiling a complete review of all of the church buildings within the parish. This was a case study only and did not involve or reflect any decision on the part of the parish. The study showed the case study to be a useful mechanism in looking at a cluster of buildings. It is important to note that architectural significance is not the only consideration. The case study revealed other issues that would come into play.

24 CLUSTER OF CHURCHES IN COUNTY LAOIS

25 EXAMPLES OF APPROPRIATE AND INAPPROPRIATE NEW USES St. Andrew s (C. of I.) Church, Suffolk Street, Dublin s Gothic Revival church; converted into headquarters of Dublin Tourism in The Black Church (St. Mary s Chapel of Ease), St. Mary s Place, Dublin Gothic Revival church by John Semple; deconsecrated and passed onto Dublin Corporation in 1962; converted to office use in c Former (R.C.) church at Killballyporter, Co. Meath large early nineteenth century T-plan church; deconsecrated in 1984; converted to workshop use with inappropriate industrial doors and Upvc windows during the 1980 s. St. Peter s Church, North Main Street, Cork converted to use as an interpretive centre (The Vision Centre) under the Cork Historic Centre Action Plan in Former community chapel of the Poor Clare Convent in Cavan mid-nineteenth century convent chapel converted to use as Adoration Chapel in c.2000, with new entrance from public car park of shopping centre. Church converted to library use in Ballinrobe Church converted to use as Heritage Centre in Carrickon-Shannon. Former Church in Foxford, Co. Mayo converted to museum use (Michael Davitt Museum) by The Office of Public Works in 2000; featured in Irish Architecture Awards The Belfry Restaurant, Mullingar

26 OTHER EXAMPLES Mothballing may provide breathing space to allow an appropriate solution to emerge

27 PLACES OF WORSHIP: THE CHALLENGE OF CONTINUING USE St. Werburgh s Seminar Michael O Boyle B.Arch MUBC MRIAI Bluett & O Donoghue Architects The Coach House, Dublin Castle 23 rd November 2010

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