2002: Historic ‘cathedral’ in £15,000 repairs shock

A landmark Purbeck church needs its roof replaced – forcing church leaders to launch an urgent fund-raising appeal. More than 40 large tiles made of Purbeck stone fell from the north roof of Kingston church overnight on January 6. Homeowners living nearby raised the alarm when they discovered the wreckage in the morning and surveyors later discovered wooden pegs holding the tiles in place had rotted away.

St James, Kingston, known as the cathedral of Purbeck, is described as one of the best churches designed by distinguished Victorian architect G E Street – the same man who designed the Royal Courts of Justice in the Strand, London. The church dates back to 1880 and is a grade one listed building. Initial estimates for repairs total some £15,000 -to repair the north side of the roof alone.

Rector of the parishes of the Purbeck Hills, the Rev Robert Watton, said: “Now that the scaffolding has gone up it is quite apparent the whole roof will have to be done. The scaffolding is preventing more tiles from falling off. We still have access to the church – there is no damage inside.”

Built of Purbeck stone and Purbeck marble, the church was originally built in order to counteract the effects of the recession of the 1870s by creating work for local people. It is a landmark building and on a clear day it can be seen from as far away as Poole.

Anyone who can help towards fund-raising is urged to contact Mr Watton on 01929 422559. He said: “This is a distinguished Victorian church building in a parish of 100 souls. It is very expensive to run and with no endowments the only way we get money to run it is through fund-raising activities. Encombe Fete is our biggest fund- raising event of the year but this year it was a wash-out – we normally gross between £13,000 to £14,000 but this year the fete raised well below £5,000, so this has come as a double blow.”

The church is known as the cathedral of Purbeck because of the building’s dimensions. Architect G E Street also designed St Peter’s church in central Bournemouth.

Bournemouth Echo, Friday 18 January 2002

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