A LANDMARK church in Rotherham town centre will be closed and sold off amid dwindling congregation numbers.
Grade II-listed Talbot Lane — a site of Methodist worship for 258 years — has been valued at £250,000.
A plea for support was made two years ago but now the decision has been taken and a final service will be held on July 14 at 4pm.
Rev Joanne Archer-Siddall, superintendent minister of Rotherham and Dearne Valley Methodist Circuit (pictured), said: “It is with a great sense of sadness that the Methodist church at Talbot Lane will soon be closing its doors and be sold.
“The building is the third church on the site, but over recent years the congregation number has dwindled with few people, if any, showing any meaningful support following various church and community events.
“The Methodists of Rotherham know that Talbot Lane has featured in many people’s family history.
“But history and nostalgia cannot sustain us as we move forward with immense costs to maintain a building that seats 850 people, of which just a small number of faithful attend week in and week out.”
Peter Hawkridge, secretary of Rotherham District Civic Society, said: “The society is disappointed that the Methodist Circuit has decided to sell Talbot Lane church, despite the opposition of the local congregation.
“We recently placed a blue plaque on the building to celebrate the introduction of Methodism into Rotherham.
“We hope that, whoever buys the building, they treat it with the respect it deserves.”
The current church, opposite Rotherham Town Hall, is the third place of worship on the site.
An octagonal chapel was opened on the site in 1761 and Methodism founder John Wesley preached there several times.
It was replaced with a classical-style chapel in the early 19th century as the number of worshippers grew.
But the building was destroyed in 1901 by a fire caused by a candle accidentally being dropped in the organ space.
A competition was held to design the third iteration, details of which were publicised by the Advertiser in 1902.
Rev Archer-Siddall said: “It is truly a heart-breaking time for the church members, but the church, circuit and district of the Methodist church have exhausted all possible avenues to save the church as a place of worship, and have reached the conclusion that the best course of action is to thank God for all that is past, and trust him for all that is to come.
“It is hoped that a buyer will be found that will maintain the church’s architectural beauty, and understand its unique contribution to the history of Rotherham throughout the years.
“Many churches in the UK are under considerable pressure to stay open. Please support your local church as much as you can.
“The church needs you. And maybe, just maybe, you will find that the church has more to offer than you thought.”