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Scaffold still on ‘dangerous’ chapel in Sunderland's Bishopwearmouth Cemetery after more than a year

Scaffolding, put up for inspection purposes on a derelict Grade II-listed chapel in Bishopwearmouth Cemetery, is still there more than a year later.

Tuesday, 21st June 2022, 4:55 am
Updated Tuesday, 21st June 2022, 9:31 am

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In April 2021 the Echo reported that the cemetery’s council-owned 1856 South Chapel near Chester Road was in dangerously poor condition, fenced off and with scaffold erected.

Sunderland City Council said at the time it was “carrying out a detailed inspection of the steeple and is still in the early stages of evaluating the scope of the repair and maintenance works required.”

However, the condition of the chapel is clearly still dangerous and is also badly overgrown.

The South Chapel in Bishopwearmouth Cemetery has had scaffolding attached for well over a year.

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Now £600,000 has been set aside from the council. The Echo understands that match funding is needed from Heritage Lottery, but the council have not said if or when they will apply for it.

No firm plans for the future of the chapel, one of nine listed structures in the cemetery, have been disclosed. Nor has a timescale, or its ultimate fate.

Historic England says the chapel has been listed since 1994. However, so too was the identical Central Chapel, which was demolished some years ago and sat about 100 metres away.

The Echo asked if the South Chapel could also face demolition, but the council did not answer. Nor would they say how long it had been fenced off. The temporary fencing has been vandalised with spray paint.

The South Chapel in Bishopwearmouth Cemetery has had scaffolding attached for well over a year.

Notable graves and memorials close to the South Chapel include that of George Maling, who received the Victoria Cross for helping save the lives of 300 men in the First World War, SAFC founder James Allen and members of the Vaux and Doxford families. The cemetery’s Commonwealth war graves section is only about 50 metres away.

Martin Haswell, Lib Dem councillor for the Pallion ward which includes Bishopwearmouth Cemetery, said: “We want to see some urgent action from the council to restore the chapel.

“We were pleased to see that the council had provisionally set aside £600,000 to go towards restoration of the chapel. But that is conditional upon match funding being gained from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

“To the best of our knowledge, no such application to the fund has been submitted. I and other councillors for the area meet monthly with the Bereavement team and the chapel is on the agenda every single month.

Temporary fencing around the chapel has been vandalised.

“We are constantly chasing the council for action to get it restored and bring it back into use for any purpose that residents would like to see. Sadly the faith communities don’t appear to have further use for it.”

A statement from Sunderland City Council said: “The council commissioned a specialist consultant report on the chapel that identified significant essential repair and restoration work is required.

“Based on this a funding requirement of £600,000 was included in the council’s capital programme but with a requirement for this to be funded from external sources.

“The council is considering options for the chapel that will determine future plans.”

The chapel is in dangerously poor condition.

The council recently installed bollards to prevent disrespectful motorists from using the cemetery as a shortcut while people were visiting graves. This has been a success.

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The chapel is in dangerously poor condition and overgrown.