Swanmore’s St Michael’s and All Angels Church has not had an electrical inspection for the past 21 years – and it will now shut its doors due to health and safety concerns.
The Diocese of Portsmouth, which runs it, has confirmed that the Archdeacon has been left with ‘no other option’ but to close its facilities to the public ‘until the issues are rectified’.
As reported by Isle of Wight Radio, the popular church’s future has been in doubt for a number of months after the Parochial Church Council (PCC) requested its closure back in June.
‘Falling numbers’ and ‘financial constraints’ were originally blamed – and its former vicar told Isle of Wight Radio he felt a sense of failure.
However, the Diocese has now confirmed that no electrical inspection has been carried out since 1997 – and that, following a survey of the premises, the church’s hall floor is also rotting.
It says that ‘no formal decision’ has yet been made on its future but that the ‘last remaining funds’ in the church’s account will be spent on repairing the building’s roof.
A statement from the Diocese of Portsmouth said calls for a public fundraiser would ‘not be right’ at the moment:
“No regular church services have been held there since, but a Christmas carol event on December 16 attracted around 40 people.
“An inspection of the buildings has now shown that there are a number of urgent repairs to address, including leaks in the roof.
“Consultation on the future of the church will continue. The short, medium and long-term plans for St Michael and All Angels are yet to be determined and so it would not be right to seek fundraising support at this time.
“No formal decision has yet been taken on whether to close the buildings permanently.”
Karen Fowle, who has opened the church for the past two years, described the news of a lack of inspection as a “curveball”.
She thinks the responsibility would have been down to the PCC of St Michael’s:
“Unfortunately the church has been without anybody overseeing it for over two years now so they [Diocese] are only going on paperwork and information that they have got and they have found.
“It was a bit of a curveball because it was something we didn’t expect to be told. We knew about the floor being a problem but there are only limited funds and the problem is there is no clergy. There is nobody, no PCC, there’s nothing there.”
She also says the building’s public liability insurance will end on 31 December.
And, despite it surviving two World Wars, she admits she is not sure where the church ‘goes from here’:
“We’re just gutted really. We have put a lot of hard work into it but we’re just so grateful for all the hard work and community support that there has been.
“But sadly it isn’t our building and we have to accept whatever the decision the Diocese make.”
St Michael and All Angels Church, which still remains without a Vicar, will stay open until 24 December.
The bells will ring out for the last time on 30 December.