Page last updated at 16:26 GMT, Friday, 18 July 2008 17:26 UK

Welsh church in London is closed

St Benet Paul's Wharf
The Diocese of London is trying to find new uses for the church

The Welsh-speaking congregation of a landmark London church designed by Sir Christopher Wren has been forced to worship elsewhere.

St Benet Paul's Wharf, in the City of London, has closed its doors due to its "dwindling congregation" of around seven or eight people.

Worshippers have now been encouraged to attend Welsh language services at St David's Church in Paddington.

New uses for the church are being considered by the Diocese of London.

These include broadening its appeal to offer more community-based activities, such as education.

It is not yet known whether the reopening of the church would result in Welsh-language services resuming.

The diocese had previously been unable to reach an agreement with church wardens or the church council about its long-term future.

A spokesman for the Diocese of London said the church was in the heart of the City of London with more than 300,000 people passing it each day.

"St Benet is a key church in the City of London and has had a long association with the Welsh-speaking Anglican community," he said.

St Benet Paul's Wharf in 1952
St Benet Paul's Wharf in 1952

"Despite numerous attempts by the diocese to ensure the long-term future of St Benet, the church wardens or the church council have continually rejected such efforts.

"A project team from the diocese has been appointed to investigate the possible extended use of the church with a view to an education role for St Benet.

"If a new use for the building is decided, a further exercise will be undertaken to see what kind of ministry can be exercised at St Benet in the future."

The spokesman said the church had the potential to play an "integral role" in the life of the City of London.

"In the meantime, provision has been made for the existing congregation of St Benet to use the building of St David's Welsh Church in Paddington," he added.

"Welsh-speaking priests have also been found for St David's to lead services in, and to provide Welsh preaching and sacramental ministry for the congregation of St Benet's."

The Wren-designed building was completed in 1683 after the Great Fire of London had destroyed the previous version of the church.

A church has stood on the site since the year 1111.

It is considered a valuable example of Wren's work as it is one of only a handful of City of London churches that escaped damage during the blitz in World War II.

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