A CAMPAIGN group has been launched to save the historic Werneth Grange convent which has been put up for sale by the trustees of a Catholic women’s group.

The Institute of Our Lady of Mercy (IOLM) which owns the convent in Grange Avenue, Oldham is closing down and has put a £850,000 price tag on the building, which dates back to 1877.

The IOLM has confirmed three out of the current six religious sisters are moving to Salford and its five staff are being made redundant. The remaining three sisters are being relocated.

But now, about 60 concerned enthusiasts have formed a new “Save the Grange” group to try to prevent the grad II-listed building build bulldozed for redevelopment.

Save the Grange says it has tried to contact the Institute of Our Lady of Mercy to discuss the future of the building but says it has been unable to start any dialogue.

Carlton Douglas Kennedy, from the group, said: “We are worried that one of Oldham’s valuable historic assets may be lost for good if Werneth Grange is sold to the wrong people.

“It would be great to have something that’s part of the history of the building there. We’re not quite sure what it could be used for, but it would be tragedy if it was left derelict to go to wrack and ruin before being torn down.”

The IOLM has told The Oldham Times it realizes its decision to close the convent “will be a great sadness to staff and disappointment to everyone who has had a connection with the Sisters of Mercy in Oldham.

Sr Colette Cronin, the Institute leader, said: “In recent years, due to declining numbers and an increasing age profile the Institute of Our Lady of Mercy have had to close a number of convents and withdraw from areas where they have ministered for many years.

“While we are sad about having to leave Werneth Grange and especially sad about the associated redundancies, we are pleased that three of the Sisters are planning to move to a smaller property and continue their ministries in the Diocese of Salford.”

The Sisters of Mercy first came to Oldham from Nottingham in 1863, moving into St Mary’s Parish.

In 1907, Werneth Grange, the home of the mill owning Lees family, was bought by the sisters and extended to accommodate increasing numbers of sisters and boarders.

Apart from running a private school, the sisters taught in many of the local primary and secondary schools.