National Churches Trust names 40 spires at risk

Fragile spire sign Image copyright National Churches Trust
Image caption The National Churches Trust has released a list of 40 spires it deems to be most at risk

Church spires are scattered across England, landmarks among the houses, hills and trees. But experts warn dozens are at risk of being lost.

Historic England has identified 40 spires it considers most at risk and the National Churches Trusts is hoping to raise £250,000 through public donations to fund repairs.

Here are some of those in most danger.

Church of St Mary the Virgin, Blaisdon, Gloucestershire

Image copyright Historic England

This 159-year-old parish church has one troublesome nemesis - the woodpecker. The bird with the battering beak has caused extensive damage to the spire's shingles.

The church was designed by Sir George Gilbert Scott and opened in 1856. The nave roof has had repairs but the chancel and organ chamber roof is also in need of urgent retiling.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Woodpeckers have caused extensive damage to numerous spires

Other churches suffering at the beaks of the woodpecker are the medieval St Michael and All Angels in Berwick, East Sussex.

Image copyright Historic England

And woodpeckers have wrought destruction on the same-named St Michael and All Angels in Knighton-upon-Teme, Worcestershire (pictured above).

Its cedar shingles were replaced in the 1950s but the birds have created large holes in them allowing in water which has rotted the internal wood.

Church of St Paul, Hounslow, west London

Image copyright Historic England

The elements are eroding St Paul's with the iron cramps and ties holding the tower and spire together suffering from rust.

Some facets have already been removed due to concern over their structural integrity, including a gargoyle and the weathervane from the top of the spire.

Repairs to church spires are expensive, partly due to the costs of erecting scaffolding and the specialist work required by stonemasons and structural engineers.

St George's Cathedral (formerly Christ Church), Camden, north London

Image copyright Historic England

Nature is also proving the downfall of St George's Cathedral, in Camden, with vegetation on the spire causing cracking.

The church, now used by the Antiochian Orthodox community, was designed by Sir James Pennethorne and built in 1837 in a neo-Grecian style to serve Regency architect John Nash's development east of Regents Park.

Historic England said the cement mouldings and past repairs in mortar were failing in places.

Christ Church, Highbury, north London

Image copyright National Churches Trust

About £280,000 is needed to repair this north London church, which Nicholas Weedon from HMDW Architects called a much-loved local landmark.

He said the stone was very weak and there was a "real risk" of shards falling away.

Spires "define the landscape" according to John Goodall from Country Life magazine.

"It's crucially important to repair these buildings, they will be much missed if they disappear," he said.

"If we lose them we lose them forever, we ought to be preserving them and creating new ones."

Church of St Mark with Christchurch, Glodwick, Oldham

Image copyright Historic England

Historic England said The Church of St Mark is one of the most at-risk churches in England with the building in a bad condition.

Surveyors said the roof and high level stonework were of particular concern.

The height and inaccessibility of spires means churches have difficulty monitoring their condition and cannot undertake any regular preventative maintenance.

Diana Evans, from Historic England, said many congregations raised money to maintain their spires but they did need help from bigger funders.

Church of St Michael, Upper Sapey, Herefordshire

Image copyright Historic England

The Church of St Michael has a timber spire which was last restored in 1860.

There have been recent grant-aided repairs to the roof but the spire boarding, together with stonework and structural issues at the east end, now needs urgent repair.

The church sits in a sloping yard on the edge of the Herefordshire village.

"Soaring high above their surroundings, church spires were often built as an attempt to get as close to heaven as possible," said Claire Walker, chief executive officer of the National Churches Trust.

"Sadly, these days many are in danger of going in the other direction."

Church of St Cuthbert, Halsall, Lancashire

Image copyright Historic England

The apex of the sandstone spire of St Cuthbert's has disintegrated and now needs a temporary timber support to keep it up.

The oldest part of the Lancashire church, the nave, dates from the 14th Century with the original tower being built in the 15th Century.

Church of St Peter, Otterhampton, Somerset

Image copyright Historic England

The Victorian gothic Church of St Peter in Somerset was built in 1870.

On the spire, the metal part of bell chamber windows within the gabled lanterns is corroding and the spire and its stonework is in poor condition, Historic England said.

Church of All Saints, Isle Brewers, Somerset

Image copyright Historic England

Also in Somerset stands the Church of All Saints, built in 1861.

A net has been placed above the nave to catch falling plasterwork from the ceiling.

Historic England said the roof tiling is poor with the ceiling plastered directly on to the underside of the rafters.

A couple of the windows are in need of repair and the stair tower has severe fracturing.

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