A LOWER Peover man has been hailed as a ‘heritage hero’ for his work in helping to restore a Manchester monastery.

The Heritage Alliance has awarded the title of Heritage Alliance Hero 2012 to Paul Griffiths, 59, chairman of the Monastery of St Francis and Gorton Trust in Manchester.

Paul has lived in the village with his wife Elaine for more than 20 years.

The presentation of the award was made on Thursday in London by the chairman of the Heritage Alliance, Lloyd Grossman and Ed Vaizey MP, minister for Culture, Communication and the Creative Industries.

The organisation, which represents 90 independent heritage organisations, gave the award to Paul in recognition of the work done this year by volunteers and professionals who donated their time to Gorton Monastery to return the 12 statues of Franciscan Saints to their plinths 40 feet high in the Great Nave after 16 years in storage and eight months of restoration.

The former church and friary is now used as a venue for corporate, cultural and community events, with all profits ploughed back into the upkeep of the historic building.

This year it was awarded the title of Best UK Unusual Venue.

Paul said: “It is a great honour to accept this award on behalf of everyone involved with the monastery, and it is particularly special to receive it during the year we celebrate the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Franciscans in Gorton.

“It is more than 16 years since we started out with the ambition to save the derelict church and friary and find a sustainable new use for this stunning Edward Welby Pugin building.

“We are tremendously grateful to everyone who has played a part in this long but ultimately rewarding journey to restore the monastery.”

Kate Pugh, chief executive of the Heritage Alliance, on selecting Paul for the award said: “The Alliance knows well that volunteers are the vital lifeblood of the heritage movement, and to have sustained this commitment over such a long period to revive the fortunes of Gorton Monastery is a huge achievement.

“What better way to mark this than by celebrating the return of the saints, which is an astonishing feat of perseverance, skills and partnership and one very worthy of this year’s Heritage Alliance Heroes Award.”