Landmark Preston church's £3.5m repairs appeal

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St Walburge's Church interiorImage source, Michael Durnan
Image caption,
St Walburge's Roman Catholic Church opened in 1854

A £3.5m appeal has been launched to restore a church that is one of Preston's main landmarks.

The Grade I listed St Walburge's Roman Catholic Church is in need of "urgent repairs", said its Rector Canon Gwenaël Cristofoli.

Designed by noted Victorian architect Joseph Hansom, only Salisbury and Norwich cathedrals have taller spires.

A huge part of the restoration project will be a new roof, with a temporary roof built while work is carried out.

The church, which was on the verge of being decommissioned, has been under the care of religious order The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest (ICKSP) since 2014 - 160 years after the church first opened.

Canon Cristofoli said the restoration project was urgently needed to tackle the "inevitable decay and deterioration" of the church and its subsidiary buildings as a result of a "long period of neglect" and severe weather in recent years.

The other improvements include better disability access and facilities, a new heating system and repairs to the parish hall and Talbot Library.

The 309ft (95m) spire is a prominent feature of Preston's skyline.

Image source, Michael Durnan
Image caption,
The church is in the hands of religious order The Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest

Architectural historian Bryan Little once described St Walburge's as "a building which ranks among Joseph Hansom's best, and whose roof is perhaps the most masterly ever put on any Victorian Church".

English Heritage notes the church's interior is "like a medieval hall, with a spectacular hammer-beam roof which has painted statues on the hammer beams".

Hansom, who invented the Hansom cab, designed St Walburge's 20 years after creating Birmingham Town Hall.

Image source, Michael Durnan
Image caption,
English Heritage describes its hammer beam roof as "spectacular"

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