Oldest church closes for major face-lift

MORPETH’S oldest church has closed its doors for at least six months for renovations.

The 12th Century St Mary’s Church in Kirkhill closed earlier this month in preparation for a £100,000 make-over.

Work will be carried out to create a new disabled access, toilet, kitchen facilities and community space in the north aisle, while preserving the traditional features and character of the Grade I-listed building.

And while the church will open again for its popular Christmas services, parishioners are not expecting to move back permanently until Easter.

Church warden Frances Major said: “It is preparatory work this month before the main work starts in November.

“We have closed the church for now and are having a great tidy up inside, rolling up the carpets, moving pews and putting smaller things away — it’s surprising what there is the church.

“The church is closed now, but although work won’t be finished we want to make sure that we open temporarily again at Christmas. We have a lot of people who regularly come to the carol service on Christmas Eve and the morning service so we want to make sure we are open for them.

“The work will have made some progress by then, but I would imagine that it probably won’t be easy to see what has been done because the north west corner, where the work is being done, will be closed off.”

The parish has been saving for the last seven years to enable the project to go ahead as theft and vandalism set-backs took their toll on finances.

And fund-raising is still ongoing now, with plans to improve the heating and lighting systems after the initial renovations are completed.

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“We are getting on with the re-ordering of the church now, but once that is done we will have to concentrate on the heating and lighting,” said Mrs Major.

“Anybody who has been in St Mary’s knows the problems we have with heating. It is now quite old so the old system needs to be replaced with new radiators and a new boiler. Once we have got the disabled access and the loo and things any money we have left will go straight to that work.”

During the closure, parishioners are able to attend St James’s Church and St Aidan’s Church for services.

“We are one parish and for the last few years we have had a genuine feeling that we are becoming closer together in the three churches. We regularly have one service for people and meet in one church so it just means we are going to be doing rather more of that,” said Mrs Major.

The next fundraising event for the church will take place at Storey Park Community Centre when there will be a wine tasting evening with expert Helen Savage.

It will be held on Saturday, November 10, at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £15 and are available from the Parish Office on 01670 503326, or by email to morpeth.parish@btconnect.com