Working hard to stay open in safety - and this Sunday’s show goes on in chapel’s community rooms

Ceiling plaster crashed to the floor at Hope Baptist Church
Ceiling plaster crashed to the floor at Hope Baptist Church

A chapel which is also a major community venue is battling to ensure events in the run up to Christmas can still be staged there, following structural problems.

The programme of Christmas events at Hope Baptist Church, New Road, Hebden Bridge, has been put under threat by a series of problems with the building.

The latest involves a large patch of newly-plastered ceiling crashing to the floor last Tuesday, November 10, just moments after a singer left the stage during a practice session. Church leaders are now working with professional advisers to make the building safe in time for a line-up of seasonal events.

Hope has just started a phase of Heritage Lottery funded repairs that will complete nearly £1 million of work on the landmark chapel in the centre of Hebden Bridge. But over the last few months, attention has been diverted by problems that have emerged with repair work completed less than two years ago.

This includes failure to identify dry rot in one of the main timbers spanning the chapel, causing severe cracking in the ceiling, and failure to repair one of the gable ends, resulting in water pouring down the walls behind the pulpit. The latest problem with ceiling plasterwork has led to the chapel to being temporarily closed, although use of the community rooms at the rear of the building is unaffected.

Church member Gerard Liston said: “This is a frustrating setback after all our hard work to provide this town with a unique sanctuary space and to plan an inclusive programme of events and activities focusing on spiritual and emotional wellbeing.

“It is poignant that this should happen just before we publicise a programme of Christmas events that includes a Christmas tree festival, various choral activities and a Candlelit carol service. We are working hard with our current architect and engineer and seeking advice from Historic England to make the building safe.”

Mr Liston added: “It is important that we investigate causes of the problems and hold people to account for poor workmanship, not least because £400,000 of public money has been invested in this building. But our current priority is to get the chapel open for Christmas. We have worked with our friends at the Methodist Church to relocate a choir event this weekend and organisers of the Alternative Christmas Concert on November 22 are planning to squeeze into our community rooms at the back. We ask people to bear with us at this challenging time and thank them for their support.”

The show goes on: Fiona Pattison, of The Factoryline’s Hebden Bridge Alternative Christmas Party Concert, had just left the stage at Hope Baptist Church, Hebden Bridge, when the ceiling plaster collapsed.

It left her shaken but working hard to stage the concert this Sunday, November 22, in the chapel’s Community Rooms (doors, at the side of the church near the bus stop, open at 7pm). Fiona said: “We are now in three of the community rooms rather than the church itself, so think of it more like a house party! The acoustic set will be seated upstairs in a cosy Christmassy vibe and then its downstairs to party the night away with Wobbly Bob and the Wes Paul Band. Real Cider Company will be hosting the bar and Wow, It’s Vegan will be providing yummy treats. We want to support Hope and look forward to giving you a wonderful start to this time of year.”