Church demolition starts

Published: 30 Apr 2012 13:0015 comments

WORK has started today to demolish a church despite a campaign by parishioners to save the building.

Workers arrived at Saint Margaret Clitherow Roman Catholic Church in Birch Hill this morning to begin taking down the building, which has been closed for more than a year following water damage from repeated thefts of its copper roofing.

Many parishioners had called for the church to be repaired and re-opened. They had appealed to the church authorities and said today they were surprised and disappointed that work had started.

The Roman Catholic Church's Diocese of Portsmouth has confirmed that ashes interred in the Garden of Remembrance at the site in Ringmead would not be disturbed. The diocese has previously said it would be too expensive to repair the church.

For more, see the Bracknell News on Thursday.

* What do you think of the church being demolished? Have your say below or email

Jump to first paragraph.


Have your say - post a comment on this article

Registered users log in here
If you are registered with us, you can login here. If you are not registered, please do so now. Once logged in you wont have to complete word verification each time you post.

  • honeybear
    288 posts
    Apr 30, 21:01
    Report abuse

    So what is actually going on this site?

    I suggest a garden of peace and tranquility.

    Probably not - probably another load of houses...........................

    All in favour please thumbs up for the Garden. Not the Houses.

    Recommend?   Yes 32     No 29

  • Davesweeney
    3 posts
    May 1, 11:02
    Report abuse

    Its a disgrace !!!! The parish people paid for this church to be built in the 70's !! and for it to be pulled down 30 odd years later due to a roofing issue, is an absolute disgrace and I'm sure it will be sold on for profit !! and as it was Theft of the roofing materials, surely insurance would have paid some of the replacement cost?

    I agree with Honeybear.. it should be made a Garden of tranquility and not turned into houses, or even a Mosque !!! ( I have heard rumours)

    Give this Land back to the people that Paid for it !!

    Leave this sacred land alone !!

    Recommend?   Yes 28     No 26

  • dymphna77
    2 posts
    May 1, 12:59
    Report abuse

    Before St. Margerets church was built hundreds of parishioners took out COVERNANTS to pay for the build.Surely this means the parishioners OWN the church and the contents. We are now aware the church has sold the church and the land and are having it demolished. This leads me to ask,who gave them permission to sell it? What has happened to the money, which is not theres and who did they sell it to? Also what is happening to the site.

    Recommend?   Yes 24     No 27

  • dymphna77
    2 posts
    May 1, 22:40
    Report abuse

    A Bracknell News reporter was overheard to say,why if they are demolishing the church are there only 2 people here? Answer---NOBODY HAD A CLUE WHAT WAS HAPPENING UNTIL THE DEMOLITION PEOPLE ARRIVED.

    Recommend?   Yes 16     No 27

  • photoman585
    9 posts
    May 2, 00:06
    Report abuse

    Well reader I was had, I believed the Church of St Margaret might be saved, the Vatican was looking into the case, a new Bishop might over ride the closure of this modern beckon of hope, this beautiful building, this spiritual home to 350 Christians but it turned out to be a lie it was a put up job, we was had, we lost our beloved church at 8.00am on Monday 1st of May 2012, when the church fixtures & fitting where removed to be recycled (I guess) and the church was ripped apart by a team of demolition experts’, the remaining copper picked off the roof and put to one side for cash and the rotting remains of the once beautiful and majestic roof torn apart and dumped to one side. No warning was given, no last farewell Mass, no time to grieve , Fr Chris (parish priest at St Josephs & St Margaret’s) keeping quiet or maybe he was just not informed, or kept in the loop, maybe he just did not want to know, after all he is just a servant of the church. The funny thing about that is that I was under the understanding that I was part of the church, that the church was the people, we made up the living body which is Christ on earth at that the priest was the servant of the church, so I guess it was a miss understanding. One way of looking at this could be that as once I and hundreds of others had dug deep, worked hard and somehow raised the funds to pay for our beloved church, it turns out it never belonged to the people of the parish, it became an asset for the Holy Roman Catholic Church, a way to raise funds as and when it decides and my friends it was decided without a word to me or most of the 350 other ex parishioners of St Margaret’s . Because the land on which the building stood is now an asset, worth in the region of a million pounds, The song ‘you got to pick a pocket or two boy’s’ comes to mind just now.

    I now go with a very heavy hart to St Josephs & St Margaret’s, in Bracknell town centre, where I am, even after two years, a stranger, ignored, left out in the cold even insulted ( We received two phone call to inform me a mass was to be offered for my father and brother, the first call, came with the wrong surname, second call to ascertain if the said two where living or dead (the insult), my late father was well known in St Margaret’s and a man who would do anything for any one, spending 20 or more years working as part of the maintenance team for the church building, welcoming people at the start of the 6.00pm Mass; for many years, but now it seems forgotten after less than 3 years, my brother growing up in the parish and attending the school, then passing away at the age of 30, of cancer of the kidney, his last week’s being very much supported by the family of parishioners at St Margaret’s as where my family after his death. This same family of Christian worshiper, now scattered to the other parishes in Ascot, Sandhurst and Crowthorn, or some, like my family attending Mass at St Josephs. The pain this is coursing, yes pain, is unbelievable, I wept at the destruction of the building and of the community. It will take a very strong priest to unite this damaged community, some will return in time but some are lost thanks to the very poor and badly handled management by the Diocese over the handling of the closure of the church and the lack of communication on local and wider leaves with the people of St Margaret’s. To those who worked to close our church I say, Treat people like idiots at your pearl, if indeed you are treating them as human beings at all. If you had a part in the closing down off this church, you can feel ashamed at the leave of hurt you have caused, I strongly suggest that you pray, you find the forgiveness from the many people who feel betrayed by your actions, I am struggling to hold onto my faith, it’s very hard, maybe in time but the destruction of this community will never completely heal without lesions being learned and the new parish becoming a united and welcoming and healing place for the people who are grieving, angry, hurting and feeling unable to worship at St Joseph’s. If this does not happen, all the pomp and ceremony at services will be nothing more than empty gestures. If we let these leaves of anger and hurt fester and grow. We have missed Christ message of love for our sisters and brothers.

    The Catholic Church is not looking too good in the eyes of the wider community just now, with most parishioners turning a blind eye, not talking, debating, perhaps believing that one building might have to go, even being relived it was not there building, being frightened to rock the boat, have an opinion, disagree with a priest, more than one priest even a sick and soon to be retiring Bishop or just not interested in what is going on in their own town, church, Diocese, it’s not surprising, or maybe people just do not care enough to realize that many off the people of St Margaret’s really did not want to lose their beloved church. Yes we have to get over this but if others are not there to help us, hold out hands in friendship and pray for us it will not happen. Silence is the greater evil, poor communication or keeping people in the dark is wrong.

    I stood alone on Monday morning, tears trickling down my cheeks, praying, wishing, begging in my heart that this would stop, that the church could still be saved but in my head knowing it was coming to an end, soon it will be over as to the fate of the building, but just one more blow to my heart, to the memories, my father’s work, replacing the lighting, remembering how pride he felt, the people I grow up with, Ted gardening around the entrance to the church, Martin repairing the door to the church on more than one occasion, Dawn baking cakes to sell to raise funds for this or that good cause , Bill always making you feel welcome, holding your hand as he greeted you, mum and dad taking their seats in the early years at the back of the church when we were all young, then as they grow older, sitting at the front because their hearing and eye sight was failing, remembering one priests Dog, Fred who always attended Mass, the friends I made as I grow up, seeing my sisters children become Altar servers, the last time Tony our much beloved Deacon addressed us not long before emigrating to Australia to minister to the people there, the Christmas trees each year, covered in labels with the names of people and the gifts they needed at that holy time of year, the Midnight Mass’s , The Easter vigils, all gathering outside the church, the fire from which the light to light the pastoral candle was lit, entering the building in darkness, then lighting the building from the one light until everyone had received the light of the risen Christ, the days, first my brother, then 15 years later my father’s coffins were carried out to be laid to rest, friends mirages, children being welcomed into the family of the church, my parents renewal of their wedding promises. The pride we all felt the day a man was ordained a priest in our church. The visit’s of the Bishop. The joy we felt as we sung the praise to our God, the flowers on high and holy days, weddings, the confetti outside the church, the clean lining on the Altar, The folk music and the joy of the musicians and choir, the organ letting you know which Mass you were attending. The feeling of coming home when I lived and worked away from Bracknell, only truly feeling I had come home after attending Mass. Visiting my brothers final resting place in the garden of rest, now forbidden to us as it is inside the fenced off grounds of the church. May be this might help you, the reader, understand why this means so much and hurts even more, This building should off stood for many years, I believed I might of been carried out in my coffin one day, My brother believed his mortal remains would rest in peace for ever in the grounds of this church for which truly was part of not just our life’s but our very being. It was our spiritual home.

    Recommend?   Yes 28     No 29

  • Mike05
    6 posts
    May 2, 08:07
    Report abuse

    I have truly never read anything so moving which I believe expresses the thoughts and feelings that so many of us are feeling at the moment. The clergy should be ashamed of themselves - all of them. I do remember a priest saying to me once "the one thing they don't teach you in a seminary is how to deal with people" - how true of this bunch!! Thanks also to members of our own Parochial Parish Council who were complicit in the decision - may they rue that decision for the rest of their lives but we are still a commmunity in spirit and that is something that the representatives of the church on earth cannot break. Thank you to the Bracknell News and all the other media sources who have covered this story to the bitter end - we thank you for your balanced rather than sensational coverage and for this we as a group are truly grateful

    Recommend?   Yes 17     No 30

  • photoman585
    9 posts
    May 2, 09:55
    Report abuse

    It was Monday 30th April when this started, sorry to have put the wrong date, its a hard thing to accept, sorry.

    Recommend?   Yes 9     No 22

  • Mrsmjw
    1 post
    May 2, 10:25
    Report abuse

    I am absolutely appalled at the way the diocese has dealt with this issue. The demolition of our beautiful church has broken many hearts. It wasn't just a building, it was a thriving and growing community. St. J cannot cope with the huge capacity of Catholics in Bracknell. You feel like a stranger at St.J. St.M.C is very much needed and wanted. It was an extended family to over 250 parishioners. We could have raised the amount needed to fix the roof but were not given the opportunity. St.M.C was just an inconvenience that needed getting rid of.

    Going back to the reporters comment that why is there only two people commenting on the demolition? We did not know it was happening. We have been kept in the dark. The last information we had was that the issue had been referred to the Holy See. The diocese have been completely underhanded and I have lost my faith in them doing what is right for their people.

    Recommend?   Yes 20     No 28

  • Mike05
    6 posts
    May 4, 12:31
    Report abuse

    The building may be gone but the community lives on. I have booked the Garden Room in South Hill Park from 13.00 to 16.00 on Sunday 27th May to hold a celebration of our St Margaret Clitherow community surviving this outrageous and barbaric act and being as strong as ever. I have no idea how many people will turn up but will sort the details later and spread the news by Facebook and email etc. Get the date in your diaries, spread the news and lets all be together like we used to be. Maybe the demolition of the church is not the end of the line for us? Kind regards, Mike Hendy

    Recommend?   Yes 13     No 23

  • hughgibbons
    1 post
    May 4, 13:18
    Report abuse

    Dymphna is spot on that nobody had a clue about what was happening.

    This is for the record (allowing that to err is Hugh) after browsing my archives of what's in the public domain. They aren't Gibbileaks, but do include all the parish weekly newsletters and frequent visits to the parish website. The local press and websites seem to have been a better source of information on St Margaret Clitherow matters – but they’re not a substitute for proper announcements and updates to the many stakeholders in the parish and pastoral area.

    Surprisingly, the last collective word to the 1000+ Bracknell parishioners from the diocese or parish priest was in the weekly newsletter of 5 June 2011, a week after the decision to demolish StMC was announced - you might say out of the blue.

    Fr Christopher Rutledge ended his observations with: “We have some practical matters to deal with until the Diocese inform us of the timetable of events…As soon as I have any more information, I will, as always, keep you informed.”

    He didn't. (If it's because he was kept in the dark by the Diocese, then that's a pretty serious issue for the new bishop to engage with as soon as he's in post.) What happened with the "practical matters" appears below.

    Nothing was published about a timetable. By comparison, in the late summer of 2010 – with people still taking the Bishop’s word that the church was to be repaired and re-opened – each month Fr Rutledge gave parishioners a succession of detailed and revised action dates. In newsletters on 16 January and 20 March, dates had been replaced by disturbing predictions of costs. No further information appeared until the Bishop’s letter at the end of May 2011 announcing that the church was to be demolished.

    If Fr Rutledge has had "more information" in the 11 months since then, it doesn’t seem to have been passed on to parishioners. Even the pretty significant news of the demolition starting first thing on Monday morning wasn’t flagged in last Sunday’s newsletter – though it’s hard to believe that it wasn’t known to several people in the parish days before.

    The parish website seems to have carried only one reference to the SaveSMC developments supported by hundreds rather than a handful of parishioners. For a while it showed what was presented as an updating letter to the parish from Vicar-General Mgr John Nelson in August. But this was actually a personal letter to a representative of the Friends of St Margaret Clitherow that they published some time before.

    The website carries the 2008-11 Minutes of Fr Rutledge’s Parish Pastoral Council and of his Finance Committee since last October. However, news of these important meetings has not been brought to attention of parishioners.

    The last PPC meeting shown was on 28 June last year, and touched on the StMC decision of a few weeks before. (None of its previous Minutes showed anything about the Bishop’s Ad Hoc Committee that claimed to have “taken evidence” from the PPC - of six parishioners - and Finance Committee - two more - on the way to recommending the closure of the church.)

    The last Finance meeting seems to have been in January this year. (Its Chair, Peter Hancock, is a member of the Bishop’s Diocesan Trustees and Finance Council, and therefore bound by the Diocese’s expectations and guidelines for these.) Reference is made in the Minutes to StMC, the near-£30,000 bill for work undertaken, and the well-known legacy which provides the parish with a substantial reserve – though a loan will be sought for the £55,000 roof repairs to St Joseph’s.)

    FYI, here is some public domain information on those practical matters that Fr Rutledge said needing dealing with – listed in the newsletter of 5 June last year.

    CELEBRATORY MASS Fr Rutledge said: “I would like to organise a Mass to celebrate the life of the former parish St Margaret Clitherow, to which the Bishop and Vicars General and all past Parish Priests will be invited. This is our opportunity to come together as one faith community and give thanks to the Lord for his many blessings, and for the life of the Parish of St Margaret Clitherow.” Nothing further was heard of what still seems a very good idea – one that’s been echoed in the planned celebrations of the 50th anniversary of St Joseph’s Church.

    ITEMS IN THE CHURCH Fr Rutledge said “The statue of St Margaret Clitherow, the stained glass, silverware and other important items will be incorporated at St Joseph. The statue of Our Lady and the Stations of the Cross, I would like to donate to St Margaret Clitherow Primary School.” As far as known, all this happened – though the fate of some other items donated by parish families is not in the public domain.

    ORGAN Fr Rutledge said on 5 June 2011: “We are currently considering the options available to us regarding the organ and we are seriously looking into the possibility of it being relocated within our Pastoral Area.” (It’s not known who he meant by “We“.) By late July, the organ was being advertised on the website of Manders, its makers. In a personal note to me this year, the Diocesan Organ Adviser said that he had found a parish to take the organ; but that he’d been told that it was going to be kept in storage by Bracknell parish, “despite the fact that someone had already been allowed to walk off with large chunks of it.”

    BOOK OF MEMORIES Fr Rutledge said: “I would like to set up a “Book of Memories” on our web page so that the important memories are not lost.” This does appear on the website – though many more personal and often deeply moving memories have appeared on-line elsewhere.

    PRESBYTERY Fr Rutledge said: “As far as I am aware, the former Presbytery will remain for the time being.” The family living there eventually moved out in the early autumn, and the house – also paid for by StMC parishioners – will be presumably be demolished with the church. Though it’s a year down the line parishioners still don’t know the options available for the future of the site. It’s possible these may be complicated by the next practical matter that Fr Rutledge identified:

    GARDEN OF REMEMBRANCE Fr Rutledge said: “Another important consideration is that we will have to think about moving the Garden of Remembrance to a more suitable site. I value your opinions on this. It has been suggested that the garden is transferred to Sandhurst parish where there is already an established and beautiful Garden of Remembrance in the Church grounds. It is well worth a visit. An alternative could be Easthampstead Park, but as I said I value your opinion on this.”

    Did Fr Rutledge not have further information? Concerns raised by families of the people whose ashes are in the Garden led The Friends of St Margaret Clitherow to raise the legal situation with the Department of Justice and the Diocese. In the autumn, Bishop Crispian had to backtrack and order a hold on proceedings. Now, as The Bracknell News was first to report, the Garden is to stay, fenced off, after the buildings are demolished.

    So Dymphna’s right that parishioners hadn’t a clue what was going on. It does seem to me that those few people who were actually in the know might have used a bit of common sense and courtesy, which might have gone a long way to preventing a year of bad press about the Catholic Church. But were they clueless too?

    Recommend?   Yes 11     No 23

  • school
    1 post
    May 4, 22:50
    Report abuse

    I was married in St. Margaret Clitherow's Church in 1975 and from that day forward I loved to be a part of that parish and it became a very important part of me and my family. My fellow parishioners became my friends, we shared meals, fetes, donkey derby's, weddings, funerals, happy holy masses, sad tearful masses; always supporting and helping one another and people near and far. With absolute certainty I can say the parishioners of St Margaret Clitherow's Church are gentle, caring, generous and trusting people.

    These are the people that are now in total shock and horror that our lovely church is being demolished, when all it needed was the roof repairing. We did try really hard to save our church, up until now we believed the hierarchy of the church shared the same Catholic traits that we showed each other in our church and that they would see it was right and proper not to destroy this special place.

    Well, now I believe the bad things I have heard about the Catholic priests and bishops, and the cowardly way they cannot deal properly and respectfully with people's feelings, they have a real tendency to brush things under the carpet, living for today, wrecking the lives of many in their battle to stay afloat. You know what they are sinking, and unable to meet face to face to tell us our church is being demolished. I feel cheated by them, my only hope is that one day I will find my way home again, back to my faith and a church I can call home.

    Recommend?   Yes 11     No 16

  • honeybear
    288 posts
    May 5, 05:51
    Report abuse

    The Catholic church wonders why people no longer come to church, espiecially the younger generations.

    Your answer is above.

    They probably still have thier faith but do not see the church practicing what it preaches..............This a sad day for the Catholic Church and if they sell this land for development the parishers should take legal action as many people have donated money to this parish, for the upkeep of the church.

    Although I only attended services at this church occasional as I go other more local churches. It was a lovely church and it is disgrace for it to be demolised.

    This area should be turned into a garden of peace and tranquility.

    I would like to suggest that a partition be started on facebook that can be sent to the Bishop and higher if necessary to stop the land be sold for development and saved as a garden.

    Recommend?   Yes 11     No 16

  • photoman585
    9 posts
    May 5, 16:52
    Report abuse

    I am reading with great sadness this thread of views, some deeply personal other factual, all sadly full of hurt and anger, and I keep thinking about who we are all trying to be like, to follow and how we must be Christ like in all we do, readings like ‘Turn the other cheek’ and ‘Love your neighbour like yourself’. Be Christ like. However I know I am a million miles from being Christ Like just now. I feel at a real lose. It’s my own Church the Parish Priest I should be able to turn too but I feel he is in part of the reason I am where I am just now. I am trying to understand why the church, the Bishop and the priests have behaved so heartlessly. If you deny people information, if you do not involve people in decisions which effect their own lives, if you tell them lies, if you go out of your way to keep them in the dark, you’re going to end up in a mess like we are now in. (The church has a history of doing such things, in times gone by I might of been burned at the stake for saying what I have, so thank God I live in a more enlightened period in history).

    I have tried to visit the demolition site, 2 or 3 times a day, I have seen with my own eyes, the great dignity and even reverence with which the team of guys carrying out this work have put into the horrendous task for which they have been entrusted, it is truly good and holy the way they have carried out their duty. I saw a candle was lit and has been left burning on the Altar 24 hours daily, I would like to thank them for that. I was sad to see we thought so little of our church fitting that the Altar, lectern, Stations of the Cross, pews, Organ, other church fittings, all went to scrap, lost to us and other church goer’s for ever. I would have gladly helped remove these items before work started on demolishing the building, if I had known. I am sure some of the people of the parish would have found homes for them.

    I do not know how to move on, prayer seems almost imposable, anger is bubbling beneath the surface, life seems dark and the light at the end of the tunnel is all but nonexistent. I guess not having control, not being informed, not having a voice is wrong, its humiliates, belittles and destroys people, sadly it’s what has been practised here in Bracknell over the last year or so in regards to the fate of the building and it community. I believe in the power of pray and would ask the peoples of Bracknell to pary for me, my disillusioned family and the community I now fear is lost. If ever a group of people are in need of pray it is us right now, we prayed that our church be saved and its gone so part of your prayer might be that we come to understand why this has happened and part of your prayers must be for the priest who felt he could go back on every thing he said, who felt the people not only had no say but would not be told of any thing that would happen even up to the building being pulled down. And pary for those who took it on themselfs to be part of this thing. God help us to work throught this and grow stronger from it.

    Recommend?   Yes 8     No 11

  • photoman585
    9 posts
    May 6, 13:32
    Report abuse

    I would like to say one last thing on this thread and that’s about the bad publicity the Roman Catholic Church has received over this, The one thing it did wrong in this sad and sorry affair was to do what it did behind closed doors, to let the parishioners know that they did not count, the views and opinions would not have mattered, that the diocese of Portsmouth knew better and that as long as the clergy exercised its authority over the people then the hope was that they would roll over and just accept. WE should feel proud that we stoud up and were counted, we tryed and I am proud that people cared so much. The fall of both Communism and fascism governments in the western world, the Arab spring in the Middle East, should surely have shown that people vote with their feet, if they feel the injustice of those in positions of authority both religious and secular. I know this is very simplistic but its meant as a generalisation to make the point that the people need to be involved and listened to in matters which involve there life’s, If we had the facts, understood the reasons we might of agreed or we might have found ways to rectify the problems and save the Church (I believe we found a way to repair the roof and make it imposable to remove the copper in the further and at a cost of around £30.000). I believe the Church is for whatever reason about 200 years behind the secular world, (poss a good thing/poss a bad thing) It seems that the work of Vatican two is going out of favour somewhat, It is not attracting the number of Vocations to the Priesthood and its clergy is aging fast in the UK. It is generally true that with age comes wisdom which makes the way the church went about this closer of a parish with an active and vibrant congregation. (i am not going to split hairs over weather merging two parishes counts as a closer of a parish or not) even harder to understand. However I must point out that the church continues to carry out good works, to care for the needs of its people, to be Christ like in a modem world, its message is still one of be strong in the love of a God who so loved his people he gave himself in sacrifice and showed us through his resurrection that we can live good life’s if we follow the greatest commandment of all, ‘To love your God with all your heart and to love one another as yourself. It is in a time of challenge and needs to look more to its laity to carry out its work; the parish would have survived and flourished without a residential priest. In time its possible lots of parishes will have to do just this. The church is its people, we may be the only point of contact the secular world has with the Christian world so we need to have good well rooted foundations in our faith, a spiritual home being just one of the community’s needs. We need to move on and build on the community spirit that showed though when we faced this problem. We need to make our peace with those who did not feel as we did and did not stand up with us to save our parish. If we are to be Christ like we need to take the good things we have, to pray and build on what we have. To find a way forward and understand Gods plan for us.

    Recommend?   Yes 7     No 0

  • peacetoyou
    1 post
    Apr 13, 22:09
    Report abuse

    April 13th 2013.

    This evening I was singing to myself the hymn "I am the Bread of Life" and it took me back to my very happy days at St. Margaret Clitherow Church in the 1980s and early 1990s. I had been told of the demolition and decided to have a look on the web for memories of the parish. I have read all the comments and have been touched deeply by people's hurt and distress. I now live nearly 300 miles from Bracknell so I haven't seen the demolition site, which I count as a blessing as I just have my wonderful memories of the beautiful church and lovely, caring parish. I send my greatest sympathy to the people who have, to be honest, been traumatised by the destruction of their beloved church.

    Recommend?   Yes 0     No 0