'Like Blackpool without a tower': Hunslet residents turnout in force to save local church spire, which is tallest in Leeds

Hunslet residents have turned out in force as they battle to save the iconic St Mary’s Church spire from demolition, the tallest church spire in Leeds.

By Alex Grant
Monday, 11th April 2022, 4:38 pm

Since the demolition of St Mary’s Church building in 2015, the residents of Hunslet have campaigned to save the adjoining spire, an iconic local landmark.

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On Wednesday, March 23, Hunslet Carr Residents Association made a presentation to the full council at their monthly meeting.

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On Wednesday, March 23, Hunslet Carr Residents Association made a presentation to the full council at their monthly meeting. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

They aimed to make them aware of the condition of the spire and what they said were the failings of the Church of England Diocese.

Speaking to the YEP, Kenny Saunders, Chair of Hunslet Carr Residents Association, detailed how "Hunslet without a spire would be like Blackpool without a tower."

"It's one of the tallest spires in Leeds so to lose it would be a massive landmark gone." he said.

"Whenever you come along the M1 or the M621 you can see it for miles and it is there to let you know that you are almost home."

The spire of Hunslet`s St Mary’s Church is a grade II listed building and is the tallest church spire in Leeds. Picture: Jonathan Gawthorpe.

The spire of Hunslet`s St Mary’s Church is a grade II listed building and is the tallest church spire in Leeds.

The adjoining church was demolished in 2015 due to subsidence but the spire has stood since 1864 and this date can be prominently seen above the bricked up original entrance to the church.

"Although concerns regarding the current condition of the spire and surrounding land has been acknowledged by the Church of England Diocese, it is their responsibility to provide the necessary maintenance to secure its future." Kenny explained.

"However no remedial action has taken place since 2015. It is very distressing and concerning to see the state of the spire.

"One of the Tower Buttresses has been removed at some point and needs replacing to comply with its listed status. Vegetation is growing out of the stonework, windows have been broken and there is now water ingress."

Residents have also been angered by the deterioration and the mess of the land immediately adjacent to the spire including the War Memorial.

"It contains the names of 360 Hunslet men who gave their lives in both wars and is now surrounded by high metal fencing and is inaccessible." Kenny exclaimed.

"The grass around the site is overgrown obscuring the memorial tablets. This is an insult to these men as we are unable to hold our Remembrance Services in a dignified manner.

"For the last few years, we had to resort to tying our memorial wreaths to the fencing. We asked the Diocese for permission to tidy the site and cut the grass but this was refused."

For Kenny and the Hunslet Carr Residents Association, the past seven years has been long enough and they believe action is needed now.

They are now requesting that Leeds City Council put significant pressure on the Diocese to carry out its obligation to maintain and repair the tower, spire and its immediate areas.

Speaking to the YEP, a spokesperson for the Anglican Diocese of Leeds explained that it is a complex situation given the important status of the site and that they are working collaboratively with Leeds City Council to achieve the best outcome for the community.

"We remain committed to ensuring the site is developed for community use. As part of the work essential structural and archaeological reports are being prepared. Meanwhile, safety inspections take place every four months." read the statement.

"The last inspection in February 2022 showed no significant changes to the building and nothing considered to be of major concern. According to that report, no urgent repairs are necessary at this stage.”