Only a few months following the previous post from November, 2016, a devastating fire reduced the huge 800 capacity, Victorian Ascension Church and our beautiful Paradise Garden to a ruin in an arson attack on February 13th, 2017. The blaze could be seen for miles across the City of Manchester, with fire-fighters battling the fire for hours to gain control, however, only parts of the stone shell, columns and some stone carvings remained of the church, with the Paradise Garden also decimated and ruined by huge amounts of water and the many fire fighters and equipment needed to stop the blaze.
However, the day after the fire it was discovered that all of our bee-hives and colonies of bees within were unharmed, sheltered behind the high apiary fence and poplar trees in the corner of the Paradise Garden. The bee-hives were quickly re-homed within the allotments belonging to our collaborative partner The Irwell Valley Sustainable Communities Trust. The fact that they had survived the terrible blaze provided a sign of hope to the devastated community, particularly those involved in our Paradise Garden.
The fire made national news the following day, with a huge outcry from the local community to rebuild the church, particularly from residents, volunteers and parishioners who worshipped at church and accessed the various community activities and volunteer initiatives, with interest and support also flooding in from churches across the UK and from people of other faiths and no faith. It was initially feared that the church would have to be demolished, however, The Diocese of Manchester and Ecclesiastical Insurance responded positively to this huge, public outcry from the local community to rebuild the iconic much-loved, local landmark and well used community facility, with Architects Buttress appointed to take on the rebuilding of the Grade II listed building.
After an initial phase of assessment to identify what remained in terms of architectural features or artefacts that had historic and social significance, these items were conserved and the building stabilised. During 2018 the work to rebuild the roof and masonry repair work was begun with the work set to continue into 2019 / 2020. However, by the end of 2019 the work will begin on the interior of the church and the current hope is that the work will be finished in time for the church to re-open sometime in 2020.