A CAMPAIGN to restore a church at the centre of a pit community looks set to have reached another milestone.
The £13,000 appeal to replace the heating system at the Church of Ascension in Easington Colliery has entered its final stretch, with around £900 raised at a Victorian Christmas fair at the weekend.
While the final calculation of the funds raised is still being confirmed, it is hoped work can begin on restoring warmth to the building in February.
The problem has meant events have had to be held in its hall, while Christenings, weddings and funerals have been moved to St Mary’s Church in Easington Village.
It comes after the electrics within the church, off Seaside Lane, were replaced, with the attention to be turned to collecting an estimated £20,000 in the New Year do its roof can be replaced
The chapel, built in 1926, has played a central part of the community since it opened, especially during the village’s pit disaster in 1951 and the miners’ strikes of 1984/85.
Vickie Fannon, secretary of Easington Colliery Heritage Group, said: “It’s a community hub and people didn’t realise how much we use the church hall as well as its grounds.
“Most of the old wardens who came said it was the biggest Christmas fair they’d had in years and it’s really put a smile on their faces and encouraged us as a group.
“It goes to show this isn’t just a church, it’s a big part of the community as well.
Saturday’s fair featured a visit from the Puffin Billy, run by South Hetton businessman Ian Morrell, and costumes and props lent by Beamish Museum.
A festive feast including Christmas pudding truffles, mince pies, mulled wine, soup, pies and peas and a winter spiced crumble were among the treats on offer.
Stalls also traded during the day, including a display by local photographer Dave Brightwell.
Santa also made a guest appearance to the grotto, with children given a small gift during their visit.
The church is decked out with 16 6ft trees to celebrate Christmas, with each of the firs decorated by a different community group.
The campaign has set up www.justgiving.com/yimby/easingtoncolliery so people can donate to the restoration fund.