A PCC in Cheshire has launched a fund-raising appeal after a car crashed into the side of the parish’s Grade II* listed church last Friday.
The vehicle collided at speed with a ten-foot tall sandstone Anglo-Saxon preaching cross, which dates from the ninth century. No one was hurt.
A notice on the website of St Luke’s, Farnworth, in Widnes, in Liverpool diocese, says that the cross — which was shattered on impact — had probably prevented the car from doing further damage to the church wall. The driver of the vehicle had attempted to sprint from the scene through the churchyard, it says.
Police later tracked the registration to the owner, who was arrested on suspicion of drug-driving, and who has since been released pending an investigation.
Clare LiptrottThe broken cross as seen the following morning
“The whole incident was captured on the CCTV cameras at the corner shop,” the church notice says. “It was very fortunate that no one was walking near the church or any cars parked by the shop at the time. The car was finally removed by the police just after midnight. The area was made safe by a churchwarden and assistants on Saturday morning.”
The PCC treasurer, Yvonne Horabin, who helped with the clean-up, said this week: “So many people passed by saying how disgusted they were that something like this could happen.”
Repairing the damage is expected to cost in the region of £16,000.
“Hopefully an Insurance claim will cover the majority of the damage,” the notice continues, “but the repair to the Celtic cross will be expensive, as it will require a specialist stone mason to do the work. A repair to one of the gargoyles recently cost £8000, so this repair will possibly be double that amount.”
The church’s designated health and safety adviser, Clare Liptrott, who also leads its Toddler Church and Messy Church, said on Tuesday that she “shudders” to think of the final bill.
“Caretaking such a historically significant building is time-consuming and costly,” she said. “In recent years, we have tirelessly raised funds and applied for grants to ensure that our church continues to be the focal point for at least another 900 years. Our church is not just a monument: it is a living vibrant active worshipping church.”
She concluded: “The cross bore the brunt of the damage and saved our church building. . . There is definitely some theological symbolism in the fact that the cross was sacrificed for the church.”