Campaigners are desperate to save the Bond Memorial Chapel, which has stood on Adelaide Terrace since 1899
A row has broken out over the demolition of an ancient West End chapel.
Campaigners against the knocking down of the Bond Memorial Chapel in Benwell, Newcastle, say it is being done with no community or council consultation.
The chapel, which has adorned Adelaide Terrace for 117 years, was built in replacement of the Iron Chapel in 1899, but is to be consigned to history.
The soon-to-be-empty lot is rumoured to be the site of a new car park for the childcare centre and children’s charity that flank the chapel.
If the plans go ahead, a huge hole will be left on Adelaide Terrace.
But in a bid to stop the demolition, campaigners started a petition and over the course of one morning, were able to canvass 20 signatures.
Resident Elizabeth Flint said her biggest grievance was with the lack of opportunity for community input.
“Nobody has really thought about us,” she said.
“People’s histories and memories are terribly important.
“For me, the chapel is like an old friend, a face you look at every day.”
Now, Ms Flint has applied to Historic England for heritage listing of the building – which is now being processed – in a last ditch attempt to save the landmark.
“We should put a fight up,” she said.
“Make it clear the church can’t just do as they like.”
Liz Thompson, who has lived in the area for 33 years, said she has seen too many buildings and streets that were centuries old be demolished in the area.
She said: “The Bond Chapel and its neighbouring buildings are a part of the area’s history, and I was very disappointed to hear that the chapel is to be demolished with no local consultation or discussion, or consideration of a change of use.”
Ms Thompson is also worried about what the loss of the chapel will do to the streetscape and the implications on residents.
“I know that the chapel is not listed but I am concerned that its demolition will not only detract from the appearance of its surrounding buildings, but from the whole appearance of Adelaide Terrace.
“The people living in the houses behind the Chapel would lose some privacy as their houses will then face directly onto Adelaide Terrace and passing pedestrians and traffic. The chapel will also serve as a noise barrier from the at times heavy traffic that pass.
“I am also concerned that, should the chapel be demolished, permission for demolition of the Sunday School would also be considered more favourably.”
Newcastle City Council said it has no say in the demolition of the building, as it is currently not listed or in a conservation area.
However, the authority noted that there was no prior approval granted by the council for method of demolition and site reinstatement.
A spokesman said: “The council is currently in discussion with the owners of the Bond Memorial Chapel in connection with agreeing the prior notification of the form of demolition, including details of the method of demolition and treatment of the site following demolition.”
The Methodist Church said the building was left unused for some years. It said even with an upgrade, there would be no use for such a building in this location.
“Discussions were had with a history group and the local authority who agreed that, unfortunately, the building should be demolished,” a spokesman said.
“A number of memorials and the building’s cornerstones will be relocated to remember the property’s once important role in the local community.
“Having followed the appropriate procedures requested by the local authority, the demolition contractors are in receipt of a Section 81 notice which gives permission to demolish the building.
“We have since been notified that the council now requires a further application regarding the future use of the land as an open space and have therefore halted the work while this is dealt with.
“Appropriate notices have been placed at the location referring to this.”
Judith Green, who runs the local history and heritage group at the library, said that demolition had been on the cards since the chapel stopped operating as part of the church 10 years ago.
“I think people have forgotten about that,” she said.
“It’s a great shock to people, it’s quite a feature. Apart from a shopping centre, most of Adelaide Terrace has stayed pretty much as it was when it was built at the end of the 19th century.”
Ms Green, because of her role in the heritage group, was able to conduct a final walk through of the building when it closed some years ago, and roughly 40 people showed up to say one last goodbye to the church.
The St James’ Heritage society has managed to save a war memorial from the building, and is in discussions about a stained glass window.
Foundation stones from the church will also be saved and used to create seats in the front garden of Action for Children, a charity based out of the manse next door.
“These buildings mean a lot to people and we think it’s important that the physical traces don’t completely disappear,” Ms Green said.
“It’s going to be very strange and quite shocking when that building disappears. It’ll be like having one of your front teeth knocked out.”