St. Francis' Gorton Monestery
Riding into Manchester on the Sheffield Line the parish church of St. Francis in Gorton is impossible to miss. Its elegant spire rises dramatically over an already impressively tall nave. Over the years commuters watched as the building fell into a depressing state of disrepair and I'm sure that most people felt that it was only a matter of time before it was put out of its misery. Fortunately, some of the people of Gorton never gave up hope and were determined to save it. Apart from saving a local landmark the goal was to preserve one of the finest examples in the country of the work of the architect E. G. Pugin.
St. Francis opened in 1872. Pugin was commission in 1863 by the Franciscan Order to build a church and a Friary. The Gorton Monestry was a church and a community centre for decades but in the 1960s the process of slum clearance began and the result was a dramatic decline in the local population. By 1982 only a small number of Friars remained in residence and the church was closed and sold off to developers. Plans to redevelop the building failed to materialize and in the intervening years the developers removed many of the internal features and vandals and looters did extensive damage.
Against all the odds a group of volunteers known as the Gorton Angels set up a trust in 1996 determined to raise the money to restore the building and once again make it a community centre. It took a decade to reach their goal with help from among others the Heritage Lottery Fund, English Heritage and the European Union. The building has been secured and restoration will continue. In its new role it will be a conference and events centre with seminar rooms and an exhibition space.
Here are some images of the restored inside today thanks to Bill Bullock who donated them.