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Buyer’s rescue bid for ruined church

By GraemeWilki  |  Posted: November 23, 2011

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THE man behind the purchase of St David's Church in Carmarthen has spoken of his fight to save the historic building from collapse.

Aaron Hill, who lives with his family near Caernarfon, bought the troubled building earlier this year from the Church in Wales.

But it was already so badly damaged — a wall and part of the roof had collapsed during a storm in 2003 — that he feared it would not survive the winter.

Speaking exclusively to the Journal, the 46-year-old said: "It was dangerous. I think something like 65 tonnes of stone came through the roof and the whole gable end collapsed when we started to repair it.

"It was a desperate time. There was already a considerable amount of damage inside from the weather which is a shame — it's a beautiful building."

Mr Hill, who works as a social worker but restores historic buildings as a hobby, said he had spent £450,000 this summer in emergency repair work.

"If I had not bought it, I am sure it would not have survived this coming winter," he added.

It was revealed publicly last month that Mr Hill had bought the church in April to change into a single house.

He declined to confirm or deny if he bought the church for £1 as reported — saying it was important to remember how much the building is worth after costs.

"I have a long history with listed buildings and have a passion for history and architecture," he said.

"I feel very strongly that this building should be restored and saved.

"I've been aware of it for a long time but I was under the impression it had been repaired and saved already.

"It wasn't until I did a trip down to Carmarthen I realised the state it was in and made enquires."

The sale of the church included the old and overgrown part of the graveyard.

Mr Hill stressed he had no plans to change the old graveyard and said he was dismayed to see it had been left in such a state.

"My plans are not to alter the graveyard, he said.

"Of course people have a right to visit the graves of loved ones there.

"My driving force is to save the building. If there was some local community group that wanted it and that had the money to reimburse, me, they could take it on.

"Unfortunately, we've got to be practical and I really think there isn't the public money for that."

Mr Hill hopes to have a planning application in by the new year and, if approved, to begin work during the summer.

He said he would keep the height of the knave and then build rooms into the aisles and tower, to preserve as much of the buildings historic character.

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