A 13th Century Weardale church is to hold a service to celebrate works carried out to improve the building following a donation left in the will of a parishioner.
The Church of St Thomas the Apostle, in Stanhope, will hold the Service of Celebration on Thursday February 7th at 7pm. It will be led by the Revd Susan Kent, Rector of the United Benefice of Upper Weardale, and the Rt Revd David Stancliffe, Honorary Assistant Bishop in the Diocese of Â Durham, will preach the sermon.
The service is being held to celebrate improvements made to the Church building over the past year. The work has been made possible because of a legacy from Irene Bainbridge of High Street, Stanhope, who when she died in 2003 left St Thomas money for the upkeep of the fabric of the Church.
Improvements include the conservation of a 17th Century Cosin reredos screen, the installation of a toilet with disabled access, a servery in the north aisle and a toilet in the choir vestry, new carpets to the nave, sanctuary and two vestries and, over the next few months, the repair of the Victorian wrought iron gates to the churchyard and the installation of specially designed wrought iron gates to the porch at the south door to replace dilapidated wooden ones.
Wendy Edmunds, Churchwarden, said: â€œSt Thomasâ€™ church dates from 1200 and is Grade 2* listed, and the alterations have had to be carefully designed to ensure that they do not detract from the beauty of the building.
Members of the Bainbridge family have visited St Thomasâ€™ to view the improvements and have expressed their approval.
The family have offered to pay for a memorial plaque to record the contribution to the life of the Church and the village made by Irene Bainbridge, nee Potts, and her husband, the late William Lee Bainbridge, who died in 1977.
Brian Bainbridge, their nephew, who lives in Bedfordshire, said: â€œThe church was very important to both of them. My aunt was involved in many aspects of Stanhope life and she valued community spirit and saw the church as being at the centre of that.
â€œShe was very keen that the money she left would be used to improve the fabric of the church.
â€œThe church mattered a great deal to my uncle as well. He was on the church council at 26 and was a churchwarden for the best part of twenty years. It was a lifetime of service.â€
Family members will be attending the service on 7th February, weather permitting.
The Revd Susan Kent said, â€œI have been overwhelmed by the way the whole project has brought the congregation together as we made joint decisions about the work. There have been very many benefits apart from the improvement to the building. We very much look forward to welcoming visitors to come and share this newly improved ancient place of prayer and worship.â€