A CHURCH with historic links to the Duchess of Cambridge's
family is facing an uncertain future after being sold by the Church
Commissioners for £1.
St John's, Roundhay, in a northern suburb of Leeds, has fallen
into disrepair since it was sold, two years ago, to the Pentecostal
City Mission, a small, London-based Evangelical church. The roof is
leaking, and the churchyard has become overgrown. The cost of
remedial work has been estimated at more than £100,000.
The Church Commissioners imposed a covenant on the property
which required the new owners to maintain the fabric, but they have
until 2015 to undertake the work.
The Mission's Leeds congregation is small, and they used the
church for only a short time after taking over. They are now based
in a former Methodist hall in the neighbouring Harehills district.
The Mission's national movement, which is based in Leytonstone, in
east London, has since fallen foul of the Charity Commissioners for
failing to publish annual accounts for the past two years.
Its entry on the Charity Commission website has a red-box
warning to potential donors about its undisclosed financial status.
Its last set of accounts, for 2009, were not filed until this
February - 739 days late. They show a deficit of £129 on a total
income of £178,549 - less than half the previous year's income.
Leeds City Council is now considering stepping in to carry out
basic repairs before the end of next month to avoid further damage
this winter. The work, however, would not guarantee the building's
St John's was opened in 1826 to serve the burgeoning population
of Leeds, and included many of the city's civic and industrial
leaders in its congregation. Among them was Francis Lupton, an
alderman on Leeds Council, who died in 1921. His daughter, Olive,
married Noel Middleton, a Leeds solicitor and the Duchess's
paternal great-grandfather, in 1914.
A spokesman for the Church Commissioners said that they were in
a difficult position as they had no powers to act until 2015. "We
are in discussions with the Mission and are hopeful of a successful
outcome," he said. "We cannot speculate what might happen if this
has not been resolved by 2015.
"We had been given every indication and promise the churchyard
would be a major priority, and its repair would be undertaken on
transfer of the building. It is unfortunate things haven't
progressed in the way we had hoped, and we had been told, they
He defended the original decision to sell to the Mission.
"Continued Christian worship was by far the most suitable use for a
former Anglican church. They had provided evidence of accounts and
also provided a list of proposals planned for the church and
churchyard. Given the information provided, the Church
Commissioners were satisfied this was a suitable and viable
A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said: "The Pentecostal
City Mission was late filing documents for years ending 2007, 2008,
and 2009, and has so far failed to submit accounts or annual
returns for the years 2009-10 or 2010-11.
"We have noted the charity's failure to file its annual
documents and this is reflected on our website to inform the public
and potential donors.
"We have written to the trustees on several occasions reminding
them of their duties in this respect - five times in relation to
their documents for financial year ended 31 March 2010, and four
times in relation to their documents for financial year ended 31
March 2011. It is disappointing that the charity's trustees have so
far failed to comply with their duties. We will continue to contact
the charity in this respect.
"Where a charity fails to confirm it remains active, we may
remove it from the public register if we are satisfied it does not
possess any significant assets.
"No serious concerns have been raised with the Commission about
A Labour councillor for Roundhay on Leeds Council, Christine
Macniven, said that an elderly resident had approached her after
becoming distraught at the deterioration of the graveyard where his
wife was buried. "It's a shocking state of affairs which can't be
allowed to continue," she said.
Efforts to contact the Mission were unsuccessful. The number on
its website for the Leeds Pastor - Light Brigade Linton - is a
private line. The person who answered denied any connection with
the church. Calls to the London HQ were either unanswered or met
with a request to ring back. No messages were taken.