When the Church of Scientology bought the former Duckworth’s Distillery building on Chester Road in Old Trafford in 2007, the plan was to refurbish the building and open a brand new ‘Ideal Org’ by 2011. The property was purchased for £3.6 million ($4.5 million USD) by millionaire businessman Piers Springthorpe and fellow Scientologist Stephen Perry, before being transferred to Scientology officially in 2008.
According to Land Registry filings, Perry and Springthorpe, who died at age 41 in 2013 after a short illness, passed the building’s ownership over to the Australia-registered Church of Scientology Religious Education College Inc (COSRECI), through which all UK activities are funnelled, in 2008.
Since then, it has sat empty and vacant. It has now been awaiting renovations for 16 years, much to the dismay of locals. According to Architects NJSR, “urgent repair works” were desperately needed in 2018 to protect the building from further deterioration. It is not clear whether these works were completed, or even started.
Crumbling walls and cracked paintwork
A 2018 article in Manchester’s ‘Confidentials’ Magazine stated a heritage report into the building revealed ‘extensive roof works are required as there is currently significant water ingress. In general, the building is in a poor state of repair…’
Speaking to BBC Radio Four in May 2016, Trafford councillor Ejaz Malik said: “We are very much concerned about what is going on in this building, it has been empty for a long, long time now… it is a disgrace to the building and the local community.”
Empty and vacant
Duckworth’s Essence Distillery is one of several listed buildings acquired by the Church of Scientology across the UK in the last two decades, including the Royal Fleet Club in Plymouth (£1 million in 2010), Pitmaston House in Birmingham, now the home to Scientology’s Birmingham Org, (£4.1 million in 2007) and the Windmill Hill nursing home in Gateshead (£1.5 million in 2007).
Scientology have recently faced threats of a compulsory purchase orders for failing to renovate the buildings with David Jarman, a Trafford councillor, saying he is “in favour of developing these old buildings with character and compulsory purchasing if necessary” and Liz Cook, editor of a local history website in Plymouth, claiming she “would support compulsory purchase by the council”.
In August 2022, Manchester Evening News published photographs taken by urban explorer ‘Exploring with Jake’ who gained access to the Manchester Org site. The images shows the building is still awaiting development, 16 years after its purchase by the Church of Scientology.