Fundraiser launched to save decaying church

A ONCE-popular place of worship has fallen silent after more than a hundred years of use. There are no services, no weddings or baptisms. The organ and church bells stay quiet.

But Holy Trinity Church in Dalton has not been forgotten by the local people and there are moves afoot to open it up once again.

Despite its doors being padlocked and locked since the start of the pandemic, people are working to rescue the place of worship from its current state of decay.

Church warden Judy Atkinson is so upset that she has launched an online fundraising bid to raise cash to pay for repair work, and a local councillor has pledged to push for action.

An open day is planned for All Souls Day on Tuesday, November 2, between 10am and 6pm when people can go and visit the church located along a path leading from Vicarage Close, next to Trinity Croft C of E Primary Academy to which the church is affiliated.

Indeed, the church is particularly missed by children at the school who enjoyed its Nativity and Harvest Festival services.

Judy hopes to raise enough on her GoFundMe page to do something about the church which was completed in 1849. She has a £20,000 target but admits that might be optimistic.

She said: “There is mould on the walls. The plaster is falling off in the vestry. There is a hole in the roof to let water in. If we don’t do something it will all go to rack and ruin.

“There has been no heating for a full 18 months.

“It’s so sad walking past it every day and knowing it’s empty.

“Many mums stop me and ask what’s happening with the church.

“School children used to come in every Wednesday for Mass and when there were full services for the whole school and parents it would be packed to the brim.

“The thing is that the kids are missing out. They loved coming to the church. The little ones did the Nativity each year but they cannot come in this year until this is sorted.

“Whatever I can do to get it done I will get it done.

“I just hope we can raise some money so those kids can come in again.”

Judy said that children from the school regularly enjoyed decorating the church at Christmas and the place of worship once played host to a swing band performance.

Judy said that a vicar is currently not allocated to the church which is C of E but follows the Catholic tradition.

Judy said that the congregation had begun to decline prior to the coronavirus closure of the church.

She said: “It used to be quite full but towards the end there were only four or five of us in.

“It’s the only church in this area for Dalton. A lot of parents of children at the school keep saying ‘what is happening?’.”

Unfortunately the empty building has attracted the attention of drug addicts and other ne’er-do-wells which has become a problem in itself.

Judy said: “One of the children at the school a couple of years ago stepped on a needle and it went through his trainer.”

Judy said that she hoped the community could come together to save Holy Trinity, and she has been in contact with Dalton councillor Michael Bennett-Sylvester.

She said: “We have had some nice times in  the church. The fact is that people want to come back to it.”

The church has gained support from people in the local community.

Cheryl Guest, a local resident and learning mentor at Trinity Croft C of E Primary Academy, got christened and married in the church, as well as attending the school.

She said she would be upset if it were to be closed permanently. “I would be devastated. It’s a historical point in the village. It’s a part of my childhood memories and it was a major part of my life,” she said.

“It makes me emotional.

“The church is one of the reasons I came to work in this area.”

Head of school at Trinity Croft C of E Primary Academy, Mrs Maria Allen, said:  “It’s sad that the children miss the church because it’s a peaceful place.

“Last year the Christingle service had to happen in the school hall, and we did a baptism and confirmations in the school.

“It was always such a lovely part of going to church.

“It makes it being a church school more real because it gives a greater sense of history.”

Mrs Allen said that Year 6 pupils from the school had hoovered and dusted the inside of the church, and that clearing of the path outside was paid for out of the school budget.

She added that when the church was open, children would visit two to three times a week.

“I don’t mind the church being used by other groups as long as it’s not left to ruin,” said Mrs Allen.

Children from Trinity Croft voiced their own enthusiasm for the church by saying “It’s a fun and happy place”, “I miss the whole school being together”, and “I miss listening to the old organ”.

Dalton and Thrybergh district councillor Michael Bennett-Sylvester said that he would support moves to bring new hope to resurrect Holy Trinity Church.

“My daughter was christened there,” he said.

“It’s a cracking little church. It’s something I am keen to see saved.

“I am hoping we can have a good conversation to see what we can do about it.”

Cllr Bennett-Sylvester said that he would be interested to hear proposals for community use because Dalton is an area of Rotherham with few community facilities.

Cllr Bennett-Sylvester added: “We are talking about a public meeting or if there are alternative places where people can worship in the meantime.

“I think there is a good chance of creating a campaign around the church with a community focus.”

Cllr Bennett-Sylvester said that St Leonard’s Church in Thrybergh had recently raised money to fund repairs so he was hopeful that a similar campaign for Holy Trinity could help.

The Advertiser asked the Sheffield Diocese for a comment but none was available prior to our deadline.

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