CHURCH leaders are desperately trying to raise tens of thousands of pounds to help restore an Orthodox landmark to its former glory.

Saint Dunstan’s Antiochian Orthodox Christian Church, at Bournemouth Road in Lower Parkstone, has suffered years of decay and needs its roof made water-tight, some windows replaced and some much-needed TLC.

Over the next 24-36 months the church will need to raise £60,000 to make sure the Byzantine building doesn't fall into any further disrepair.

An initial grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund of £25,000 has been granted. That is to help the church plan the development which is expected to cost around £180,000.

But that is what the church needs just to make sure the church can be made water-tight and is not further damaged by rain. The total cost for the restoration of the building - which will involve replacing some of the unique handmade bricks, recreating the stained glass windows, and designing the Orthodox frescoes - is not yet known.

Father Chrysostom said: "I'm not an expert but it needs serious work - there's no doubt about that.

"And that is for two reasons: the first is for the sake of the people who belong here and for the sake of the town. It is a precious building and a piece of patrimony as a unique building.

"It would be criminal really to let it decay.

"If we can save it for the next century - that is our aim.

"It's a lively Orthodox community here that is growing and expanding and become more active.

"It's actually the largest building in our Diocese - larger than St George's Cathedral."

The church forms one of the parishes of the Antiochian Orthodox Archdiocese of the British Isles and Ireland.

The foundation stone of the chancel was laid in April 1904. It was eventually finished in 1915.

It is an early 20th century basilica in the Arts and Crafts style designed as the last work of the renowned architect E S Prior.