THE Barrow church of St James is getting ready to celebrate its 150th anniversary despite surviving Second World War bomb damage and a serious closure threat in the 1990s.

A concert and an anniversary dinner are among events planned to mark the consecration of the Blake Street Building at Whitsun in 1869.

The church and its organ suffered damage in 1941 during the Barrow Blitz and the passing of time created equally expensive and challenging restoration tasks.

At the end of October in 1993 an open meeting was held to discuss the fate of St James' and there was a recommendation to make the building redundant, demolish it and use the site for sheltered housing.

To save the building, its organ and bells would need the spending of at least £200,000 spread over a 10-year period — which turned out to be a major underestimate.

By July 1995 the church was given a five-year reprieve by Carlisle Diocese officials.

Vicar the Reverend Colin Laxon, said: "We have got a stay of execution for St James'. The threat of closure has been lifted.

"We are certainly going to be around until the end of the century and I am sure well into the next century."

A host of events helped to boost the appeal fund for a major church restoration — given a great boost by £439,000 in February 1997 from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

There was plenty of fundraising for other good causes, including in August 1994 an auction for Rwanda where Sunday school youngsters agreed to do chores for the highest bidders.

In August 1985 a fund was started to raise the £16,000 needed to restore the 2,400-pipe organ.

It was officially launched by the Cumbria author and TV personality Melvyn Bragg.

In October 1991 the spire had needed a £6,000 overhaul but there wasn't enough cash left to renew the gold leaf on the cockerel which sat on the top.

You can keep up to date with planned 150th anniversary events at the church, or on its facebook site.