Happy Birthday All Souls!
All Souls Church, Halifax, Celebrates an Unlikely Landmark!
Only 30 years ago the fate of All Souls, Haley Hill, Halifax, a magnificent Grade I listed monument (and, with its 236ft spire, one of the most impressive parish churches in England), hung in the balance. The church, designed by one of Victorian England’s greatest architect’s, Sir George Gilbert Scott, had been allowed to fall into disrepair and, in light of spiralling repair costs, it was declared redundant in 1977. Although its roof needed major work, the most pressing problem was the spire which had been rendered unstable by the corrosion of internal metal supports. With the church beset by problems, truncation of the spire - at the very least - seemed inevitable, indeed, the future of the entire church seemed uncertain. On its 150th birthday, the people of Halifax can look back with satisfaction at the story of its miraculous rescue.
The rescue of All Souls was as dramatic as it was unorthodox. With the Church Commissioners unwilling to embark on repairs, SAVE Britain’s Heritage stepped forward, forming an independent trust in order to raise the £500,000 needed to secure the fabric. A number of individuals and organisations rallied to the cause including, crucially, Jennifer Jenkins (former chairman of the Historic Buildings Council) who helped SAVE to secure a major grant. The National Heritage Memorial Fund, following a casting vote of the chairman, also provided substantial funding. SAVE’s architect, the appropriately named Donald Buttress, devised innovative solutions for a number of awkward structural problems and with the support of the engineers Arup Associates, the spire was stabilised and repaired.
The salvation of All Souls remains one of SAVE’s greatest rescues, helping to give hope to a many other redundant churches struggling for survival in the face of almost overwhelming odds. The church continues in active use and is a great source of pride for the whole region. Its 150th birthday should, therefore, give great cause for celebration.