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Derek Walker Modernist church may be sold off

The future of the last surviving Modernist church designed by Milton Keynes masterplanner Derek Walker, is hanging in the balance, the AJ has learned.

The Holy Family Church in Chequerfield, West Yorkshire (pictured), is at the centre of a showdown between the Catholic Church and its congregation after the Bishop of Leeds announced that he intends to sell the 1964 building.

The move has prompted furious locals to start a campaign, backed by Walker and Labour peer Lord Lofthouse, to keep the church open. English Heritage has now been brought in to assess the building for listing.

Walker said: ‘The church is in the middle of a very close-knit community and remains a focal point for them. It is very disappointing that it will close.
I have written to the Bishop of Leeds asking him to reconsider, but had no response.’

Speaking for the Church, Reverend Monsignor Michael McQuinn blamed the closure on the ‘decline in the number of priests’ and said the diocese intends to sell the building.

Campaigners are now claiming the interior is already being picked apart, with the pews on their way to a church in nearby Skipton.

According to Paul Walker, an architectural historian and expert on post-war churches, the Holy Family is ‘a very strong statement architecturally’.

He adds: ‘Its layout challenged traditional notions of how a church was thought of. It should certainly be listed.’

The Holy Family church is the last of a trio designed by Walker, which included St Benedict’s in Garforth (now demolished) and Sacred Heart in Hyde Park Road, Leeds, which is now a mosque.

The design was in keeping with the modernising Second Vatican Council movement. It featured a free-standing Portland Stone altar, intended to bring the priest closer to the people, and ceramics by artist Robert Brumby.

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