A HISTORIC church hall that was targeted by arsonists was sold to a property developer last year, it has been revealed.

Deane Parish Church Memorial Hall, in Junction Road, Deane, was damaged in the fire last week.

The fire service believes the blaze was started intentionally after someone broke in through a window and set furniture alight on Tuesday, January 9.

The hall has been out of use since around 2013 and was sold by the Diocese of Manchester last year.

Records from the Land Registry show that the hall and the land it is on was bought by Fortune Properties (UK) Ltd on March 27 2017 for £95,000.

The company is based in Abbey House, in Lever Street, Bolton, and is listed on Companies House as a renter and operator of housing association real estate.

It is not clear what the intended purpose of the site is but following the purchase, representatives of Fortune Properties erected signs on the hall warning people the building is dangerous and to keep out.

The hall was first opened in 1934 in memory of those who fought during the First World War.

In the late nineties the hall started to suffer ‘quite severe problems’, the church website reads and a prop was installed in the kitchen to hold the roof up and several cracks started to appear at the south end of the building.

There was attempts to make the building usable but in 2011 part of the ceiling collapsed and it was forced to close.

Beccy Clarke, manager of the church’s office, said: “It doesn’t actually belong to the diocese anymore. It was sold to a property developer about 12 months ago.”

Firefighters were called to the blaze in the early hours of the morning and three fire engines attended.

There was a smell of smoke in the air and residents living nearby needed to move their vehicles from the car park so the blaze could be tackled.

The interior of the building, including roof supports was made of wood, meaning the fire was difficult to tackle.