Page last updated at 20:47 GMT, Wednesday, 7 October 2009 21:47 UK

Church gets world monument status

Carlisle Memorial Methodist church
Carlisle Memorial Methodist church was described as "unloved" but "very Belfast"

A derelict church in a north Belfast interface has been placed on a internationalist list of threatened heritage sites which once included the likes of the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal.

The Carlisle Memorial Methodist church is among 93 sites around the globe which have made it on to the World Monuments Fund watch list for 2010.

The watch list is published every two years and aims to protect sites of cultural or architectural importance which are at risk because of neglect, vandalism, conflict or disaster.

The Gothic Revival style building was completed in 1875 and was once home to one of the largest Methodist congregations in the city.

It was commissioned by the late Earl Carlisle as a tribute to his dead son and was designed by the noted architect W. H. Lynn.

However, due to population shifts and declining attendance at the interface church, the building has not been used as a place of worship since 1982.

"Neglect"

It has now fallen into disrepair, but it is also one of Northern Ireland's listed buildings and therefore not at any immediate risk of demolition.

So why it is on the watch list?

On the edge of inner-city Belfast, Carlisle Memorial Methodist Church serves as a sober reminder of the city's architectural legacy and its troubled past.
The World Monuments Fund

The founder of the Belfast Buildings Preservation Trust, Fionuala Jay-O'Boyle, said that over the past two decades the church had become "unlovely and unloved" and warned that "neglect can do as much harm as a developer".

She welcomed the move by the World Monuments Fund and said the international recognition would aid the process of finding a future use for the building, allowing it once again play a viable part in the local community.

"It was known in its time as the Methodist cathedral" she explained.

"It's actually a very ornate, very special building - a curious mixture of limestone and sandstone, but very distinctive and very Belfast".

The church is currently under the ownership of the Ulster Provident Housing Association, which Ms Jay-O'Boyle said has "made sterling efforts to find a sustainable reuse for the building".

She pointed to other historic buildings owned by the association which have been successfully transformed, one into a school library, another into a bookshop and office space.

'Fractured'

The World Monument Fund description said that, "despite its religious associations, the building is now perceived as neutral territory in a deeply polarized area".

The New York based organisation said Carlisle Memorial Methodist church was one of the sites which illustrated "the ways in which heritage conservation can bring together fractured communities".

It added that a project to renovate the building as a shared heritage resource "would deepen the successes of the Northern Irish peace process".

Other sites on the 2010 watch list include Machu Picchu in Peru, often referred to as the "Lost City of the Incas", ancient castles in Uzbekistan and a highway in Connecticut, U.S.A.



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