Old convent chapel to see the light again

Work is being carried out at the Shrine of our Lady of Lourdes
Work is being carried out at the Shrine of our Lady of Lourdes
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The lights will soon be shining inside a former Blackpool 
convent chapel for the first time in six years.

The Shrine of our Lady of Lourdes’ power was cut off in 2009 after the supply was condemned following an 

Work is being carried out at the Shrine of our Lady of Lourdes

Work is being carried out at the Shrine of our Lady of Lourdes

But a complete re-wire of the shrine, in Whinney Heys Road, is now being carried out.

Its owner, the Historic Chapels Trust, is trying to raise £500,000 to fund a 
revamp that will allow it to be used for more worship and community activities such as memorial services.

Director Roland Jeffery said: “It’s a struggle to use the building at the moment without electricity but now it is being sorted we hope it will bring on more uses.

“It has in the past been used for meetings and exhibitions, and people come to look at the architecture.

Roland Jeffery, director at the Historic Chapels Trust

Roland Jeffery, director at the Historic Chapels Trust

“It’s not derelict – we have spent quite a lot of money – but it could do with re-decorating. If we can get some events on and some income, we 
propose to redecorate.”

Built as a thanksgiving shrine after Catholic churches in the North West escaped major damage during the Second World War, it was used as chapel for an adjacent convent and closed in 1999.

The Portland stone building, which has a copper roof and fleche, was designed by architect Francis Xavier Velarde, built by local man William Eaves, and finished in 1957.

The sculpture on the facade portrays the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and was sculpted by David John, who also designed the reredos and altar.

The Historic Chapels Trust became responsible for the shrine in 2002 and spent £100,000 fixing a leaky roof and defective drainage in 2008.

Parts of the roof also had to be replaced after being targetted by thieves, Mr Jeffery said.

And asbestos had to be removed before work on the electrics could get under way.

The trust hopes to later install outside floodlights to illuminate the prominent building so it can be better seen from the nearby roundabout leading towards
Blackpool, Poulton, and Bispham.

Mr Jeffery said: “People assume the building is not in use and we hope floodlighting will encourage more usage.”

The trust also wants to build a car park at the back of the shrine to allow for easier access for events.

For Heritage Open Days 2015, a national event held earlier this month, the shrine opened its doors to more than 100 visitors.

The building was originally used by the Sisters of Adoration, whose convent was next door, until 1968.

It then passed to the Sisters of Marie before The Blessed Sacrament Fathers and Brothers took over in 1994.

Five years later, the chapel became disused when the special Mission of the Shrine moved to Preston.

Following public concerns about its possible demolition, it was Grade II* listed, which means it is a ‘particularly important building of more than special interest’.

The chapel can be hired for events such as concerts, funerals, and memorial services, but it is not registered for weddings.

To enquire about holding an event at the shrine, email lena@hct.org.uk