A MAINDEE church built in the 19th century is likely to become an arts centre or social housing after it had to close due to dry rot rendering the building unsafe.

Vicar of Maindee Reverend Canon David Neale said the cost of repairing St Matthew’s Church floor would be around £500,000, with the building unusable.

Although parishioners were originally “devastated” by having to move to new places of worship at the end of March, they said they understood the reasons behind the closure after funding couldn’t be secured to keep the church open.

Whatever happens to the building would benefit the community, Rev Neale said.

Gwen Vrettos, who attended St Matthews for around 30 years, saw her grandson’s christening there and said her husband used to dress up as Father Christmas each December.

Now attending church at St Mary’s, she said: “It was a really friendly church. All of us that used to go there were upset when it closed, especially when they didn’t know what to do with it. We all enjoyed it there but it’s nice to go to St Mary’s too.”

Groups ranging from the local food bank to the Brownies used the church hall but have now had to relocate.

Curate Christine Hockey said: “It was my privilege to work at St Matthew’s church. All the people who had to leave there were obviously devastated at the time, but I think they’d all say they have moved on with other churches in the parish. Sometimes things have to be; whatever happens I believe will be for the best.”

Rev Neale is now in discussion with Maindee Unlimited and Maindee Festival to see if the church can take on a new role as an arts centre, with funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund, for example.

Rev Neale, who has been vicar of the parish for 11 years, said: “It was a relatively small congregation of around 15; some have gone to St Mary’s on Wharf Road and some to St John’s. All are still worshipping in the parish which I’m pleased about.”

St Matthew’s Church was built in the 1890s when Maindee was rapidly developing.

Now a decision on whether the building can be saved as a community arts centre will come down to whether grant bids are successful.

The likely alternative is the site would become social housing for elderly people.

Victoria ward councillor Majid Rahman said: “We have been working with the church to see if we can retain some aspects to be used for community purposes.”