Makeover for one of oldest dale buildings
By Martin Paul - Senior Reporter
THE congregation of an ancient dale church has secured the last bit of funding needed for a modern extension that will ensure its viability as a venue for years to come.
The parochial parish council for St Mary’s Church at Wycliffe landed £18,000 from the National Churches Trust which will allow them to start a £100,000 extension to include disabled access, toilets and a kitchenette.
Until now organisers put a time limit on events linked to how long people could last until they heard “the call of nature”.
The grade I-listed building was built between 1250 and 1350 on the foundation of a much older church built in about AD830.
Planning permission for the extension was granted in March 2019 and was due to expire next March.
Church warden Keith Miller said: “We are very pleased because the architect was amazed [we got planning permission]. It is unusual for a grade I-listed building to get approval for an external alteration.
“It will make the church more viable. Elderly people in particular are deterred from coming in case the need the call of nature, and for people with small children. We used to judge the appropriate length of a concert based on the length people can go without using the loo.”
The church has in the past staged impressive music concerts, and these will be enhanced with the new facilities which, Mr Miller hopes, will be completed before Christmas.
He said: “The acoustics [in the church] are brilliant because there are no side aisles and the height of the roof.”
The extension will include a new disabled access through a medieval doorway on the north side of the church, with a new pathway.
Mr Miller said: “We are extremely grateful to The National Churches Trust, as well as other charitable foundations, mostly based in the North East, which have supported us.
St Mary’s is one of the oldest buildings in Teesdale, and an important part of our heritage as well as being a place of worship for nearly 1,200 years.” Vice-chairman of the The National Churches Trust Huw Edwards added: “I’m delighted that St Mary’s, Wycliffe, is being helped with a £18,000 National Churches Trust Cornerstone Grant.
“This will safeguard unique local heritage and help St Mary’s continue to support local people as we begin to emerge from the Covid-19 pandemic.”