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Local heritage photographer and historian Juliette Gregson delves into her vast archives to share the story of Kings Church – built in 1897, demolished in 2016 and now under development as flats.

In 1897 Warley Road Congregational Church, Blackpool was founded as a temporary church. The members of the Victoria Congregational Church had raised £2,096 in their Jubilee fund for a new structure on the corner of Warley Road and Lynn Avenue.

It’s difficult to know what the temporary structure looked like but in 1901 it was given further investment, renamed the Claremont Congregational Church, and opened on 30th August 1901. The chapel cost £5,000 and the land another £1,000. It was built by Mayor Alderman T H Smith from the designs of Anderson, Simon, and Crawford architects from Edinburgh. The Claremont Congregational Lecture Hall and Assembly Rooms opened on the 18th of March 1908 but the ground was not consecrated until 1932.

In 1972 the church became the Claremont United Reformed Church but closed in 1994. The building later became the Kings Christian Centre but this had closed down by 2014.

The back of the church in 2016 prior to demolition

In 2016 the Gazette reported that site owners had revealed plans to flatten what was then known as the Kings Christian Centre. Blackpool-based GO Developments had been given the green light to turn the land into homes in the previous November.

“The final parts of the [then] 116-year-old church, which was sold to a London-based developer this year, came down on Friday after several weeks of demolition work,” the paper reported.

Warbreck ward councillor Danny Scott told them: “An empty church is no good to anybody. Rather than having a run-down building in our ward we will [now] have some private property there.”

Local entrepreneur Ged O’Mahoney had bought the site for £250,000 before revealing plans to replace the church with a three-storey building containing 15 two-bedroom flats.

Councillor Scott added: “I will back anything that will lift Warbreck up.

“There are a lot of places in Warbreck that have gone downhill in recent years, but with these investments and a brand new block of flats being built, hopefully we will see a great boost to the ward and its surrounding areas. 

“I look forward to seeing them when they are done.”

David Charles-Cully, owner of Cabaret Costumes Fancy Dress Hire on Dickson Road behind the church at the time, told the Gazette: “I heard the most almighty bang out the back, and when I went and looked out of the window the whole place had gone.”

2016

He felt it was good for the area, would increase property values but added: “It’s just a shame it couldn’t be refurbished.”

On a local history Facebook group this week I noticed a chap had posted some building shots of the site so of course I had to pop down and add to my own archive. I used to live in North Shore and have been taking photographs and video of the site since 2011.

The site in 2020

The site is very much still under construction – delays due, it seems, to Covid and a lot of back and forth between developers and the planning department. Various residents have complained about the lack of adequate parking that would be allocated with the flats.

The site today in 2023

One of the members of the Blackpool Civic Trust, Andrew Sage mentioned it was locally listed and had tried to save the building from being knocked down. I found an old planning application which had a rather interesting comment from the built heritage manager.

“The design is an improvement on the original proposal and the church was listed for its architectural merit. The existing boundary walls should be retained to connect the historic use of the site with any future use. I would also ask that steps are taken to ensure the stained glass is carefully removed and stored for possible re-use elsewhere in order to ensure that this historic material is not wasted.”

To be fair, a lot of the stained glass had been vandalised and like many of the older buildings in the area the church wasn’t fit for purpose. The nearby Natwest Bank suffered the same fate and is now a Co-op – another demolition I documented.

And, as with most churches, parishioner numbers had significantly dropped in recent decades. Still, I felt sad to see much of the lovely stonework just left for the salvage yard. I would have loved to have saved some of the smaller pieces myself. Alas, this was not to be.

2016
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