A TOP historian is urging people to hand over unwanted Christmas gifts to help save a Kates Hill landmark.

Professor Dr Carl Chinn, who is patron of the St John's Church Preservation Group, says items handed over for the organisation’s fundraising work will help restore the Grade II-listed building to its former glory.

The preservation group aims to reopen the building to the public but needs unwanted presents and bottles to boost its stocks after a busy festive period.

Dr Chinn said: “The Preservation Group are very enterprising in their outlook and future funding plans. They are determined not to be solely reliant on grant aid.

“They have been assisted in this by the generosity of local people and I applaud this amazing community effort. I call on people to continue to support this important cause and to consider them whenever disposing of unwanted items.”

Deb Brownlee, chair St John's Church Preservation Group, said: "The main engine of our fundraising efforts are our tombolas, lucky dips, bottle tombola and jumble sales, and we have to find an incredible 200 prizes every week plus jumble stock. Our regular supporters are very generous, but it is always a struggle to keep up.

“We're asking local individuals, families and businesses to please consider our cause if disposing of unwanted gifts or stock, or having a house clearout.”

The church is the burial place of the a number of historic characters including world champion bare knuckle fighter William Perry, known as the Tipton Slasher, and education pioneer Marion Richardson.

Estimates for complete restoration of the in St John’s Road church range up to nearly £1m. The Preservation Group aims to open its doors as soon as possible after being given responsibility for the building by church commissioners.

Initial costs include insurance, electrical work, drains, waterproofing, and further building investigations. The building will be open for Christian worship, as a community hub and as a tourist attraction.

Deb Brownlee added: "If anyone does not have any items to donate, we also welcome donations of money and these can be especially ringfenced by the donor for purchase of prizes. We also urge people to collect their loose change as the many small amounts handed in add up."

A drop-in centre run by preservation group volunteers is open next to the church Monday to Friday from 9.30am to 4.30pm and on Saturdays from 10am to 5pm.

For more information email savestjohnschurch@hotmail.co.uk