For Sale: One Des Res. One Careful Owner.
That is the opportunity on offer with the sale of an historic County Durham church with links to one of the greatest names in 20th Century international comedy.
The building in question is St Peterâ€™s Church in Bishop Auckland, which was closed a year ago and is on the market for re-development.
The church, which dates back to the 1870s, witnessed the christening of Stan Laurel in August 1891. Although the silent comedy performer was born in Cumbria, he spent much of his childhood in Bishop Auckland and was educated at King James Grammar School in the town.
St Peterâ€™s has other claims to fame, having been one of 119 churches built by Bishop Charles Baring during his term as Bishop of Durham from 1862 to 1879, at a cost of Â£7,000, more than double the average of the period. Only Cullercoats, Tynemouth St Peter and Gateshead St Helen were more expensive.
The last service at St Peterâ€™s in Bishop Auckland was held in December 2013 and the church closed officially in June last year before being put up for sale.
The Durham Diocesan Board of Finance, which is selling the property, is keen to find a buyer who will respect the architecture and stop the building falling into neglect, while also giving it a new lease of life.
St Peterâ€™s, a Grade II listed building on Princes Street, at the junction with Gibbon Street, was completed in 1875, with seating for 550. The church, which was constructed to plans by R J Johnson, comprises a large and lofty Nave, a Choir and Sanctuary, a Choir Vestry, a Clergy Vestry and a tower with a belfry and a bell. Â It is expected that the church hall will be sold together with the church.
A consultation has taken place with Durham County Council, which has confirmed that the buildings would be suitable for a range of uses subject to planning and listed building consents. They include workshop/storage, cafÃ©/gallery/community use, soft play/nursery and residential development
Bill Heslop, Diocesan Care of Churches Secretary, said: â€œWe are keen that whoever takes on the building respects its architecture. It is a large building that is Grade II Listed and it is in good repair.â€