CHURCH PROJECT: DigVentures’ community archaeologist Johanna Ungemach,and Revd Canon Alec Harding are welcoming the people of Barnard Castle into St Mary’s Church to learn more about its history							             TM pic
CHURCH PROJECT: DigVentures’ community archaeologist Johanna Ungemach,and Revd Canon Alec Harding are welcoming the people of Barnard Castle into St Mary’s Church to learn more about its history TM pic

HISTORY enthusiasts in Barnard Castle are to be given the chance to delve into the town’s unique past during a series of free events.

DigVentures, a community archaeological company based in Newgate, has teamed up with St Mary’s parish church for a project funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Free workshops are being held at the church in January to get the community involved. There are also plans for restoration work to be carried out.

Community archaeologist Johanna Ungemach said: “St Mary’s Church is not only a house of prayer but also an important custodian of Barnard Castle’s rich heritage.

“Built just a little after the castle, the church has been involved in every step of the town’s history.

“The grant will be used to restore the fabric of the church building while at the same time bringing forward its hidden history and unique heritage. Not many people know for example that the infamous King Richard III loved Barnard Castle and funded a lot of important work in St Mary’s. Some of this sculpture and contribution can still be seen today and our mission is to share these exciting stories with as many people as possible.”

Digital photogrammetry workshops will be held at the church on Friday, January 4, at 10am, noon and 2pm. Visitors will be shown how to record some of the church’s key features using the high-tech 3D archaeology photography technique. No experience is needed but those taking part must be aged 12 or older.

A talk by stained glass conservators will take place on Saturday, January 12, at 11.30am. A presentation about how stained glass windows are made will be followed by a tour of the church’s windows. Visitors will learn about the different makers and the stories portrayed in the windows. Two archaeological artefact workshops are also being held on the same day at 2pm and 3.30pm. Visitors will be given the chance to help clean artefacts from DigVenture’s recent dig at Coldingham Priory, in the Scottish Borders. Those taking part must be at least 12 years old.

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Revd Canon Alec Harding said: “When you say archaeology, people take that to mean digging. This is about researching the history of the church. There is no digging involved.”

Ms Ungemach added: “It is about giving people a chance to get hands on with history.”

About £400,000 is needed to complete the restoration work at the church.

Stage one of the funding bid has been approved. An application for the second stage of funding will be submitted in March next year.

Mr Harding said: “A significant percentage of the funding will be used for community engagement.

“There is also a lot of work that is needed at the church. We have a report done every five years and every five years there is something that is urgent. Work is needed at the west end of the church where the tower is either pushing against the building or pulling away. Some alarming cracks are appearing. That is a major bit of work. There is also stone work at the top of the tower which needs repointing.”

It is hoped that work on the repairs would begin next year. To sign up for the workshops email bookings@digventures.com with your full name or call 0333 011 3990.