Falling numbers seal the fate of landmark church
LAST days... St Edmund’s Church which is due to close.
Often described as a monument to freemasonry, St Edmund's Church was founded by the Royds family in 1873.
The once-thriving Falinge church was built and given to the people by Albert Hudson Royds, former deputy provincial Grand Master of the East Lancashire Lodges of Freemasons.
It stands on an island surrounded by a predominantly Asian community. Its vicar, the Rev David Finney, has been told by the diocese the church will close.
"We are talking about a Victorian building that needs a lot of repairs," said Mr Finney, who is also vicar of St Mary's Church nearby. "The money is not there to keep the church going.
"St Edmund's is situated in an area with a high Muslim population and its potential is at an end. We cannot keep going for the few regulars who have to fork out more and more money for its upkeep.
"We can get up to 40 attend the Sunday service, but the average congregation is about 20 at the most."
Its future remains uncertain with the possibility of closure in the next 12 months, but the Grade Two listed building cannot be demolished.
However, Emma Street resident and former Rochdale MP Sir Cyril Smith says residents will be sad to see such an institution disappear.
He said: "It is the heart of the community. As a Unitarian I did not attend St Edmund's, but I addressed the members dozens of times as an MP and have known it all my life.
"But we know attendance is slipping as is the way with many churches these days.
"It is also extremely difficult for disabled people to access because of the steps at the front of the church."