Plans aim to preserve historic church

    31 Jan. 2006

    PLANS to preserve a historic Liss church for future generations have been revised – to meet people’s concerns.

    An artist's impression of the annexe next to St Peter's Church, West Liss

    St Peter’s Church in West Liss was originally built in the 13th century, and is a grade II* listed building. But since St Mary’s Church was built nearby in 1892, its use has slowly declined. It is now used for worship only by a tiny congregation in the summer months.

    The Church of England now plans to sell it to the International Presbyterian Church (IPC). The IPC’s congregation in Liss, which currently meets in the Triangle Centre, wants to use St Peter’s as its place of worship. It plans to build an annexe to the building to include meeting rooms, toilets and a kitchen, allowing the historic character of the original church to remain intact.

    Now the Church Commissioners have published a revised set of plans to meet concerns about the positioning of the annexe. In the new plans, the annexe is much smaller and avoids those graves where relatives had previously raised objections. It also incorporates a raft-style foundation, which minimises disturbance of the ground.

    The new plans have been developed by Seymour and Bainbridge architects in Winchester, who specialise in the conservation and extension of historic buildings. The original plans were revised after consultations with local residents, East Hampshire District Council, English Heritage and the Anglican diocese of Portsmouth.

    The design of the new annexe would complement the existing church building, and the exterior of the church would not be altered. The new rooms would be linked to the church by the re-opening of an existing door on the north side of the building, and would provide facilities such as a disabled toilet, a small kitchen and two meeting rooms. This avoids the need to introduce such facilities into the historic fabric of the original church, preserving its essential character.

    The church’s interior would also remain largely untouched and stay open to the public. It would also remain a listed building, ensuring that the integrity of the building is maintained. The churchyard would still be owned by the diocese, with freedom for relatives to visit graves as before.

    Simon Goddard of Seymour and Bainbridge architects, said: “St Peter’s is arguably one of the most charming churches in east Hampshire, and the scheme that we have developed is the best way to secure its long-term future.

    “The building could have been turned into offices or houses, which would have been considered more damaging to its essential character. Open access by the public would then not be possible. Leaving it empty to deteriorate over time is not an option, given the obligation to safeguard listed buildings. To find a solution such as this one, which means it stays as a place of worship, is a real bonus.”

    The Liss congregation of the IPC now numbers around 90 people. The denomination began 50 years ago, and has been in the UK for 35 years. The Liss congregation, which consists of worshippers largely from the local area, has been meeting for more than 32 years.

    Wade Bradshaw, pastor of the Liss congregation of the IPC, said: “We now meet in the Triangle Centre, but need a new permanent home. Our style of worship is quite liturgical – not that different from Church of England services – so those people who would like the church to be preserved as a base for traditional worship can rest assured.

    “We actually held a carol service in St Peter’s on Christmas Eve, which was packed with people from the village. It was a fantastic occasion, and there were no problems with parking.”

    Publication of the plans provides an opportunity for all those interested in the future of St Peter’s, especially the relatives of those buried in the churchyard, to make their views known to the Church Commissioners. Anyone can write to the Commissioners at 1 Millbank, London, SW1P 3JZ, explaining why they are for or against the revised scheme.

    During this time, the plans will be on display at St Mary’s Church. The IPC will also need to apply for local authority planning permission to build the annexe. If approved by all parties – and subject to the Commissioners’ decision on any written representations it receives – the church will be declared redundant (closed for Church of England worship) and the sale will take place.

    For more information about the IPC’s Liss congregation, see: