Spire at St Wilfrid’s church, Standish 'could just snap off' without vital repairs

A fundraising appeal has been launched to help pay for the urgent restoration of a spire at an historic church.

Architects say the 130ft steeple at St Wilfrid’s CE Church in Standish needs vital repairs.

The church is the only Grade I-listed building in the borough of Wigan.

Parishioners have launched an audacious attempt to raise £400,000 for the work with the help of the local community.

The rector, Rev Andrew Holliday, said he was told that without repairs “eventually the spire would just snap off."

St Wilfrid’s stands proudly against the local skyline and can be seen for miles around. Credit: ITV Granada

There has been a church on the site since medieval times and St Wilfrid's has served the people of the area for centuries.

It was once described as "one of the most interesting churches in Lancashire".

Its present spire has been a visible landmark in the area for more than 150 years.

The Save Standish Spire campaign aims to raise money for the project, to pay for repairs to the inside and outside of the structure – including fixing the broken church clock.

It is hoped the repairs would be carried out later this year. 

Rev Holliday said, "I did say to the architect... what would happen if we didn't do the work on the spire? 'Well, eventually the top of the spire will just snap off and fall into the nave.'

"I thought, oh well, we don't want that."

A pre-war Walking Day celebration in the shadow of the landmark in Standish.

When St Wilfrid’s Church was rebuilt in the 1580s, the tower and spire from the previous medieval church were retained.

But, in 1814, the spire was badly damaged after being struck by lightning and eventually blew down during a storm in 1822.

The replacement spire was badly designed and out of proportion to the church and, in 1867, it was decided a new one should be built.  

The present 155-year-old spire, surmounted by a weather vane in the form of the Standish family crest, the owl and the rat, sits on top of a tower which houses a peel of eight bells that have been rung to mark many notable events, from the Jacobite defeat at Preston in 1715 to the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II last year.  

David Johnson, Chairman of the Save Standish Spire appeal, said: “From every direction as you approach Standish, the spire of St Wilfrid's Church is the most visible landmark, symbolising the continuous presence of the church in our village through changing times and passing generations.  

"The present church dates from the 1580s and is the only Grade I-listed building in the borough of Wigan – it is an architectural gem in our community of which we are all rightly proud.  

"However, a recent survey has identified urgent issues with the structure of the church spire which we need to address.

"The estimated cost of this restoration is £400,000 and we are calling on everyone in the community to help to support us with these costs."

Rev Holliday added, "As the spire is dear to everyone in Standish, we hope people and businesses from across the village and beyond will be able to make a donation, no matter how small, so that we can conserve the spire for future generations. 

"Our own parish funds built up to maintain the church will contribute to the costs, but the scale of the essential repairs that are needed means we have to reach out across the community for support." 

St Wilfrid's is part of The Church of England’s Blackburn Diocese which aims to have healthy churches transforming communities.