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Past Watch Site
CARLISLE MEMORIAL METHODIST CHURCH
Belfast, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom
- WMF Program:2010 Watch
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. Designed in the Gothic Revival style by noted architect W. H. Lynn and completed in 1875, the church was home to one of the largest Methodist congregations in Belfast. The sandstone and limestone exterior of the building was renovated in 1966, but the church ceased to be used as a place of worship by 1982, a consequence of the declining congregation and its location at a major interface between Catholic and Protestant populations. Previous plans to convert the church to public housing did not come to fruition. Now derelict for close to 20 years, Carlisle Memorial has suffered extensive physical degradation, and the need for action is at hand.
Despite its religious associations, the building is now perceived as neutral territory in a deeply polarized area and holds symbolic potential for North Belfast in particular and the city as a whole. This public perception and the church’s interface location lend credence to renewed proposals for the adaptive reuse of this shared heritage resource. Such a project would foster significant civic engagement with stakeholder communities and deepen the successes of the Northern Irish peace process.
Belfast Buildings Trust (BBT) launched the first phase of renovation work in February 2015 with a visit from project funders, who have come up with £850,000. This first phase will deliver a shell restoration and provide space for communities from across the city to work together on a program of capacity building and civic engagement. BBT plans to fully regenerate the Church to include a hospitality training academy by 2020. The Northern Ireland Department of the Environment has provided an additional £300,000 for the restoration of the church and overall regeneration of the area.