Society praises Cregneash phone box saviour but worries for church

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The Isle of Man Victorian Society has praised Conister Bank for saving the iconic telephone booth at Cregneash.

We previously reported how a planning application was submitted to remove the phone box as Manx Telecom said it had an annual revenue of less than £10.

Phone box at Cregneash.

Phone box at Cregneash.

Conister Bank then stepped in and reached an agreement with Telecom to see it restored as a working pay phone until 2024.

Society spokesman, Peter Kelly, said: ‘It was a very generous offer by Conister to pay the running costs for the next 10 years to ensure it remains.

‘The people of the island are beginning to wake up to the fact that our heritage is going all the time, like drops of water on a stone.

‘One day we will realise the stone has been worn away and unfortunately, those whose role it is to safeguard our heritage don’t seem to be concerned.’

Although regarded as a folk museum, says the society spokesman, Cregneash differs from places such as Beamish and the Ulster Folk Museum in so much that it is still a living village and all the buildings have evolved there rather than being brought from other parts of the country and re-erected.

‘People don’t realise Cregneash is not all a museum, some land is private,’ says Mr Kelly, ‘it is the co-operation of private property owners that make the place what it is today. Community spirit in action.’

However, Mr Kelly believes that Cregneash could be facing an even bigger threat in the near future.

In the centre of the village is the small chapel of St Peter and this is Mr Kelly’s main concern now.

‘There are plans to remove the pulpit, reading desk and font, and to lower the chancel floor and make the altar table legs longer to compensate,’ he says.

‘Pews are to be removed, carpet to go everywhere and audio visual equipment to be installed.

‘This will destroy the tranquility of the village’s chapel that has served so well for generations and been admired by visitors ever since Harry Kelly’s Cottage was opened to the public back in 1938 by T E Brown’s daughters.

‘It will just look like an interpretation centre if these plans go ahead. It’s not long ago a couple came all the way from America just to be married there having seen it in the Waking Ned film.

‘It just doesn’t make sense, and the cost will fall on the congregations in the Parish of Rushen.

‘Manx National Heritage gave the impression they weren’t interested in the phone box and certainly weren’t going to object to its removal.

‘We hope they have a different attitude to the rape of St Peter’s which has been the life and soul of Cregneash for nearly 140 years.’

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