THE final resting place of a Black Country legend is closer to restoration following a deal between campaigners and church chiefs.

Volunteers working to reopen St John's Church in Kates Hill are hopeful their dream is a step closer to reality following an agreement to apply for its formal closure as an Anglican church.

The grade II listed building, which dates back to 1840, is the burial site of boxer William Perry, known as the Tipton Slasher, who died of alcoholism in 1880. The church's graveyard also contains to the remains of educationalist Marion Richardson.

Services stopped at the site in 2002 following concerns about the condition of roof however later surveys found the building to be safe. The building was grade II listed in 2009 and an extensive feasibility study into future use was carried out in 2011.

St John's formal closure will enable a preservation group to lease the building, restore it and re-open it for Christian worship, tourism and community use.

Deb Brownlee, chair St John's Church Preservation Group, said: "We are in place ready and waiting with a great team of volunteers and funds saved up ready to start work. We are continuing to fundraise in readiness and we're grateful to all the wonderful, loyal people who have continued to support this great community effort both practically and financially."

The Diocese of Worcester has sent an application to Church Commisioners in London for closure which will give it the legal right to lease the building to the Preservation Group, who will begin revamp work after a period of public consultation.

The group's patron, high profile historian Dr Carl Chinn, said: "The tenacity of the St John's Church Preservation Group and their supporters in this long running campaign is an inspiration for the Black Country and beyond. Fingers crossed that things will now move swiftly to a positive conclusion and credit has to be given to the hard working church officials."

The preservation group began in 2007 and now has around 800 members and runs a drop in centre next door to St John's Church. The group .

The group, which also meets at Dudley Market on Saturday mornings, has raised £34,000 for the restoration project and has also received grants from businessman Geoff Hill and Dudley Council.

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