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Derelict Methodist church in Herne Bay High Street is sold

A derelict Methodist church in Herne Bay High Street has been sold
to be turned into flats after languishing on the market for the past
two years. The historic landmark was opened in 1885 but the Methodists moved out ten years ago and the pigeons moved in.

The building, on the corner of the High Street and Beach
Street, has planning permission for 11 flats on condition that the
exterior remains untouched. Peter Goodwin, manager of estate agents Wilbee and Son, said all that was left was the facade.

The organ, which was first played in the church in 1896 was
dismantled, catalogued and shipped to a European buyer. The pews were
also sold off. Mr Goodwin said:

“It was in total disrepair. The pigeons had taken over and were living in the building rent-free. All we sold was the shell with planning permission. We gave it a clean-up and opened the windows, and the pigeons
flew away. It is one of the longest sales we have had because of the
planning issues. It is a huge development project and will cost about £1million.”

The church was put on the market for £425,000 in 2010, but
difficulties with potential buyers securing a mortgage on the property
meant it had to be a cash buy. It was eventually sold last month to a London developer for
around £300,000. The deal took months to complete while the new owners
made sure all the paperwork was in place.

David Birch, chairman and trustee of Herne Bay Historical Records
Society, remembers having lessons in the church during the Second World
War. He said:

“From the air, schools could look like military bases,
so we would register at the school in the morning and then take our
lessons at various churches in the area. Eventually they built an air raid shelter around the corner from
the school. I spent a lot of time sitting on the biscuit tin that
contained our emergency food rations. At that time churches were busy for one day a week, Sunday,
morning, noon and night, but were empty during the week so they were
perfect for lessons.”

The church closed ten years ago because of dwindling attendance.
The congregation joined with the United Church in Mortimer Street. Maintenance on the empty building was costing the Methodists
thousands of pounds a year until it was sold to Whitstable developer
Paul Langston. Mr Birch said:

“It closed because of sheer lack of numbers. We wondered what was going to happen for a long time. I’d still
like to know what they are going to do with the 100-ft stone spire. I
wouldn’t like to own a flat and be responsible for the maintenance of
that roof. There’s also a plot of land alongside the church. It will be interesting to see what happens to that.”

Mr Langston owned the building for the past four years with the
intention of developing it into flats but never proceeded with the
project. There have since been about four offers on the building and he
sold off the fixtures and fittings before it changed hands.

Evelyn Bissett, city councillor for Herne and Broomfield, said:

“It has been a long time coming. People can do marvellous things with
churches now. I think it will help the town considerably.”

Herne Bay Times

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