Historic Holy Trinity Church in Darlington is pressing ahead with a Â£420,000 repair and improvement project to safeguard its future after securing grants and receiving more than Â£70,000 in legacies.
Work is due to start in June with the bulk of the money, Â£250,000, coming from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The grant was announced in 2014, with an initial award of Â£30,000 to allow a full scheme to be worked up to secure the rest of the award. The full award has now been confirmed by HLF after a series of meetings and proposals were presented.
In addition, there were two sizeable legacies towards the Â£136,000 that the church has raised itself. One legacy was an interim amount of Â£40,000 from a member of the congregation, Joyce Waites, who died a year ago.
Of the other legacy, The Ven Nick Barker, Priest in Charge, said: â€œAn envelope was delivered in June 2014 and I opened it to find a cheque for Â£31,391 from the estate of Eileen Smith who died in May 2000.â€
The building work at Holy Trinity, in Woodlands Road, is necessary to tackle problems including dry rot in the woodwork supporting the roof.
The church, which was consecrated in 1838, is a Grade II listed historic building which has fallen into severe disrepair and was classed as in â€˜very badâ€™ condition on the English Heritage Places of Worship At Risk register, which said it was in urgent need of repair.
Work will begin in June to replace the roof and when that is finished in October work will begin to install new toilets and a servery, for providing refreshments.
When finished, the improvements will enable more school visits, concerts, open days and community events to happen and new interpretative material will heighten peopleâ€™s awareness of the value of the building.
The Ven Barker, Priest in Charge of Holy Trinity and Archdeacon of Auckland said: â€œThese are exciting times. Not only will the work safeguard the future of the church but it has allowed us to really engage with everyone from a local history group to schools, as we have set out to make people aware of what we are planning.
â€œThe Heritage Lottery Fund have been very good partners with which to work. They have expected community engagement, which is what as a church we are about. Under the scheme we have been able to use the money not just for repair of fabric but also for the development of the building to enhance the possibilities of community use.
What is also encouraging is that we have been growing as a church through our work to engage with the community.â€
Holy Trinity was built as a chapel of ease to St Cuthbertâ€™s church to meet the needs of the expansion of Darlington after the arrival of the railway. The foundation stone was laid on 4 October 1836. The current roof is the original roof and well ready for replacement.
Ivor Crowther, Head of Heritage Lottery Fund North East, said: â€œThe North East has such a diverse range of places of worship, which not only reflect architectural influences but also the social history of a community. Thanks to National Lottery players weâ€™re delighted to support these plans which will secure the future of Darlingtonâ€™s Holy Trinity Church and its place at the heart of the local community.â€