Safety fears bring church demolition
A 150-YEAR-OLD Launceston church, which partly collapsed two weeks ago, has been demolished due to safety fears.
The disused Castle Street chapel was left in a dangerous state after the roof collapsed just after midnight on November 27.
Officials said at the time it might be beyond repair, but as a listed building on a renowned Georgian street, its owners said everything would be done to save what was left.
However, Kevin Hicks, of Kivells estate agents in the town – who is the agent for the trustees of the former Congregational Church in Castle Street, told the Cornish Guardian that Cornwall Council's building control officers had instructed them to take the church down to a safe level.
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"When they inspected the building they found more damage than was originally thought," said Mr Hicks.
"Even the vibration of the work to take down the parts known to be dangerous caused more pieces to fall. It was originally taken down partway, but after another inspection they decided it all had to come down."
He added: "Shoring and fences have been put up to ensure the safety of people walking in the area and it is also hoped that Castle Street will be cleared soon to allow traffic to pass.
"The first task was to make sure the site was safe and secure. Then we will take a breather and assess the situation and decide what will become of the area."
The building is owned by two elderly trustees from a local gospel church, the Downinney Four Square Gospel, based at Tresmeer, which bought it as a base for worship in 1964. It continued as the Castle Street Chapel until about 30 years ago but now members of the congregation hold their meetings elsewhere in the town.
The property had been on the market for some years and could have been bought for £1 by any group wanting to use it as a place of religious worship.
A neighbour said at the time of the collapse: "If this had happened between 3.30pm and 4pm, when children are coming from school, this could have been a disaster."
Mr Hicks praised the work of everyone involved in making the building safe and seeking a solution for the future, from fire personnel and contractors to Cornwall Council's building control and conservation officers, as well as those whose homes adjoined the church.
The building was a typical Cornish Wesleyan chapel of the 1860s, with a balconied first-floor gallery. Of stone and rubble construction, its front faced on to Castle Street, which was described by John Betjeman as containing "the most perfect collection of 18th-century town houses in Cornwall".
Many people have posted memories of the church on internet sites.
Monica Harper, formerly Monica Read, now in Bequia in the Caribbean, remembered going to Sunday School there in the Fifties.
Tarry Barriball, also from Launceston, said both he and his sister Moira attended Sunday School there: "The thing I remember about the building most was the balcony area that went round the two sides and rear of the building. I used go there every Sunday when we lived in Tower Street up to 1952, when we moved to Broad Park."