A CAMPAIGN group is looking to keep a historic church at the heart of the community.

St James’ Church, Church Kirk, Accrington, is up for sale with offers invited on the building, which is being marketed by Lea Hough and Company in Blackburn.

But, nearby residents are trying to keep it in its original state and possibly use it for a cafe to keep it for future generations.

Gary Britland, one of the group, said: “The tower dates back to 1148 and the nave to 1809, then it was completed in 1870.

“It is such a very old site which was dedicated when St Oswald came from Northumbria.

“He made a wooden church on this site in around 642. People have lots of passion and interest in the local site.

“Our residents' association got together to see what can be done and see what we could do for the church. Hopefully we can make something for the community.”

Built in three main stages, the overall site area is 1.55 acres. The churchyard is closed to burials and in the care of Hyndburn Borough Council.

It was closed back in 2015 and it is being sold under special legal provision. Such schemes are subject to public consultation.

Mr Britland added: “We are in the early stages of a project and have set up a committee.

“There is lots of work going on behind the scenes to find out what we can do to set up something for the community for more generations, such as a cafe.

"We are looking to set up a charity trust and hope that local businesses may be able to come on board and provide advice and support.”

Hyndburn MP Graham Jones said: “I’ve been working with a group of concerned residents for a while now to explore the next steps.

“It’s extremely important that the church is saved. It could be a fantastic hub for the local community, particularly with the number of residents set to increase with the residential development at Church Bank Works.

“The church is extremely rich in history, from its Grade II listing to the notable residents, such as Frederick Gatty, who are buried within the church graveyard. I believe it’s vital that we preserve our history and particularly this church, which dates back to 1148.”

The Lancashire Telegraph tried to contact the Blackburn Diocese and Lea Hough but they were unavailable for comment.