Church clash referred to the Bishop of London

Ashok Ghosh wants the vicar to live in a smaller home.

Ashok Ghosh wants the vicar to live in a smaller home. - Credit: Archant

An angry churchgoer has written to the Bishop of London suggesting that a Hampstead vicar downsizes his home to raise funds for a dilapidated church.

Saint Jude’s in Hampstead Garden Suburb requires urgent repairs costing millions of pounds and has applied for help from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

But solicitor Ashok Ghosh believes the money could easily be raised by trading the adjoining vicarage – where Father Alan Walker lives – for a smaller property.

In a letter to the Bishop of London, seen by the Ham&High, Mr Ghosh said: “It is a disgrace that this grade I listed church should have been allowed to fall into such a state of degradation.”

“The vicarage is a large mansion designed by Lutyens. It is worth many millions of pounds – far more than the estimated £5million it would cost to repair the church.”

Mr Ghosh made the suggestion to Fr Walker at a meeting on Friday which was scheduled to discuss the Heritage Fund proposal. Fr Walker explained that the Diocese of London owned the vicarage so it was not within his power to sell.

That evening Mr Ghosh wrote to the bishop, Dr Richard Chartres, asking: “Would you please let me know whether you will support the proposal for the sale of the vicarage to pay for the urgent repair of the church. There would be ample funds remaining with which to buy another, more modest house for Alan Walker and his family, sufficient for their needs.”

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Fr Walker told the Ham&High that it was not the first time he had heard someone suggest selling the vicarage to repair the church.

“People don’t seem to realise that the vicarage doesn’t belong to the parish and it’s not as big as it appears to be. A little over half of the building is used for two Sunday schools and a meeting room,” he said.

On Tuesday Bishop Chartres wrote back to Mr Ghosh saying that he had “asked the Archdeacon of Hampstead to look into the matter.”

The bishop had not responded to this newspaper’s questions as we went to print.