Moving Forward- The Ascension Rebuild

In February 2017, The Ascension Church suffered a catastrophic fire which decimated the entire church including it’s roof, interior and much of the Paradise Garden, although leaving many stone carvings and features of the beautiful church. The blaze attracted national attention from accross many different sections of society with many organisations and individuals contacting the church and Diocese to express their sadness that the church and consequently the wider activities of the church had been destroyed.

An arial view of The Ascension Church and Paradise Garden from above following the fire.DCIM100MEDIADJI_0001.JPGPhoto courtesty of Thomasons Civil & Structural Engineers

The devastation caused by the fire was particularly felt by the local community as the second phase of a huge restoration project, undertaken by English Heritage, had only just recently been completed in 2015, with a first phase completed in 2013. Other rennovation and building projects undertaken during 2013/14 included the complete re-design, construction, replacement and renewal of boundary walls, fencing, gates, new main entrance steps, DDA access and car park enabled by gift-funding from the local developer, Countryside Properties. The installation of DDA toilets and community catering and cafeteria facilities in 2013/14, funded through grants from Sita Landfill Trust and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, had also enabled community events and activities to get underway and the church.

          Volunteers working together to create the Paradise Garden in 2013/14

Alongside regular services and worhship, The Ascension Church was being used for regular community events and various outreach and volunteer activities inlcuding our Paradise Garden volunteer initiative to help transform the land surrounding the church and a peer-to-peer Creative English and refugee support programme, as detailed within this blog.

Photo courtesty of Thomasons Civil & Structural Engineers

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The Diocese of Manchester and Ecclesiastical Insurance responded positively to the huge, public outcry from the local and wider community to rebuild the iconic much-loved, local landmark and well used community facility. So in April 2017 the work began to strengthen the damaged structural columns to avoid collapse followed by work to clear the debris and salvage any remaining artefacts and masonry that was still intact. Buttress Architects were then appointed by the Parochial Church Council and the rebuild programme is now underway, with the church set to reopen 2021.

Photo courtesty of Thomasons Civil & Structural Engineers

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Whilst many of the usual services and activities were able to relocate to our nearby, sister Church of St. Paul’s, Pendleton, The Ascension Church is undergoing a complete, multi-million-pound, insurance-funded rebuild which will result in a well-equipped church and community facility, with community catering/training kitchen, cafeteria and community space all by 2021.

The Paradise Garden is also to be redesigned to reinstate all of its features, including wildflower meadows, organic vegetable gardens, herbs, fruit trees and wildlife pond, thus creating a physical and spiritual ‘oasis’. The church grounds can then again have the beauty, colour, scent and sound of water that typifies Paradise Gardens, a tradition shared by many religions, particularly Christianity and Islam.

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Our Paradise Garden before the fire of Feb, 2017, destroyed the church.

We want to involve local residents in both the design and rebuild of our Paradise Garden, including those linked into the church via existing networks of partnership with other churches, community groups and activities. We particularly want to involve those who participate and volunteer in our ongoing Creative English & Refugee Support Programme.

To continue and expand these learning activities, we are delivering a new project that goes beyond the class-room, with regular, ‘field-trips’ to iconic, cultural, historical and scenic places across Greater Manchester so that participants can learn about nature, ecology, heritage and gardening, linked into our Paradise Garden rebuild programme whilst practicing English and making friends!

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