St Andrew’s Church in Dalton-le-Dale to be revitalised with £100,000 National Lottery Heritage Fund boost
Work is underway to breathe new life into an East Durham church with links to the Queen Mother.
St Andrew’s Church in Dalton-le-Dale, near Seaham, was first recorded in 1155 and has a rich history including a Norman doorway and housing the effigies of Sir William Bowes, and his wife Lady Maud, whose lineage is linked to the Bowes-Lyon family, of which the Queen Mother was a member.
It’s survived the Reformation and two World Wars, but in recent times the church had fallen into disrepair and was so cold and damp it became unsuitable for services.
To help preserve this important piece of history, and attract new people through its doors, a steering group made up of passionate parishioners was formed with a view to bringing it back to life.
They managed to secure just over £100,000 from the National Lottery Heritage Fund in 2018, as well as money from Garfield Weston and the National Churches Trust to carry out improvement works at the church, which is one of the oldest in the deanery.
Gerald Gustard, from the steering group, said: “The project began a year ago but before that the church was really deteriorating, the paint was flaking, the heating was poor and inefficient and it just wasn’t a very nice place to be.”
A late parishioner bequeathed a sum which was used to buy a new gas boiler and radiators, while money from the grant has been used to hire specialist Beaumont Brown Architects, who have also been working on the restoration of Hylton Castle, Roker Pier and Fulwell Windmill, as well as hiring Classic Masonry, who are specialists in old stone work.
David Beaumont, partner at Beaumont Brown Architects, carried out extensive inspections over two years on the Grade II*-listed site to ascertain why the building was in such a bad state.
“What we established was that the paint finish was terrible and that the structure was very damp and that there were difficulties ahead because of that,” he explained. “Through a process of analysing we found that the type of paint being used wasn’t compatible. So we stripped it back to the plaster and used a new, conservation paint.
“We also found that the stonework had been cement pointed, which is hard and breaks the stone. Classic Masonry have restored the stonework with lime pointing. Solid walls like this need to be able to breathe, and lime allows for that. This will help with the damp too as the moisture can evaporate through the lime joints.”
Beaumont Brown worked closely with the Durham Diocese and Historic England to get permission for the works, which has also included installing a new stone hood to preserve a historic Norman door.
Marian Gustard, from the steering committee, said: “The church is popular for weddings and christenings, but other than that a lot of people don’t come through the doors. But we’ve taken some of the pews out so that the space can be used more for community events.”
Fellow committee member Anne Marie Green said: “The remit of the steering group is to bring the church to life and to the attention of the people in the parish. We want to revitalise the church and make it part of the community.”
Plans also include opening the church up for school visits where children can take part in a fun treasure trail, as well as tea, coffee and contemplation afternoons where people can come to reflect, no matter what their religious beliefs.
The work is due to be completed in September in time for a grand reopening and a Heritage Open Day on September 14 when the church will throw open its doors from 10am to 4pm.