Thursday, August 28, 2008
I waited until the Wednesday crowds had shuffled home and popped across the market square to St. Marples’. It was behind its original low wall (supplemented by council chain-link fencing) and great rusted gates. Once I was sure I wasn’t overlooked (at least by mortal eyes) I hopped over the 6’ fencing and approached the building.
The stone edifice was blackened with grime and layers of graffiti. The granite hadn’t been cleaned since the sixties and still held traces of soot from car exhausts -- the present market area used to be the road trough the town before the bypass took the bulk of the traffic away from the centre.
You’d swear it was a church but it was never consecrated as one. It was build by Lord Caulder in 1859 when he was desperate to redeem his sins after contracting the ague in 1854, a relic of his sojourn in the Crimea. It was built without consent of the church, however, and when Lord Caulder presented it – as a fait accompli – the incumbent Bishop rejected it out of hand.
It has been, over the last one hundred and fifty years, a records office, a museum, a workhouse, an air raid shelter, an art house project, a homeless shelter, a tax office and a pigeon coop (which it still is.)
I finished my outside observations. The building seemed structurally sound from the outside. I could see no evidence of subsidence in the building although one of the fake tombs (since the site was never consecrated there were never any burials – the graves and tombs in the grounds were entirely for atmosphere) had collapsed in on itself. At a rough estimate, the land was worth half a million. My guess was that unpaid duties would double that. No wonder Harold was unwilling to take the project on.
I’ll have to investigate other avenues.