THE partial collapse of a 133-year-old church ceiling has left villagers in Northumberland having to attend services in a schoolroom.
Heddon-on-the-Wall Methodist Church has now been hit by a second blow because insurers are refusing to pay out on the damage. Now the race is on to get repairs carried out independently before a wedding scheduled for February, although in the next few weeks two baptisms are also on the calendar.
Heddon Methodist Church vicar the Rev Elizabeth Cushion said: “Half the ceiling has come down and the church is out of action at the moment.
“We don’t know how long it will be unusable, or how much the repairs will cost, but the insurance people have told us that it is classified as general wear and tear and they won’t be paying up.
“That is a blow to us. We will go to the Newcastle West District Church Circuit where we will hope to get grants towards the repairs, but we are not sure what will happen at this moment.”
The plaster ceiling dates back to 1877 and Ms Cushion added: “This was a real shock. There had been no sign of this happening, no cracks or anything. In fact, we had had an inspection not long before and there was no apparent problem.
“It was when our steward opened up one morning that he discovered the damage, with plaster and dust all over the pews and floor.
“We used the adjacent schoolroom for our Sunday service this week and although we have no weddings or funerals scheduled, we do have two baptisms, so we are preparing a different room and moving in 40 seats.
“It has caused us a lot of disruption and not getting the insurance delays things a little more, but we are now in the process of getting estimates for the cost of repairs, which I fear will not be cheap.”
A series of fundraising events has rapidly been put in place, starting with a Saturday coffee morning which gave the Heddon villagers their first chance to come to the church’s aid.
“The villagers have rallied round,” Rev Cushion said. “The coffee morning was well attended and there have been many offers of help.
“We are having a meeting today to decide what we have to do next and we will take it from there.”