A VANDALISED medieval church has been resurrected after it was taken apart brick by brick and rebuilt 40 miles away.
St Helen’s Church has been painstakingly transported from its former home at Eston, Middlesbrough, and rebuilt at Beamish Museum in County Durham.
Each individual brick of the church, which is around 900 years old, was removed from the building and numbered in 1998. It took four labourers a month to dismantle the church and transport it to a site near Georgian Pockerley Manor, owned by the museum.
The blocks were stored on palettes, whilst the remaining rubble of the church was taken by skip.
The bricks were kept in a field while Beamish Museum, which funded the project, waited for enough money to become available to complete the move.
The decision to transport the church followed years of vandalism, including a fire which destroyed its roofs.
The vestry was illegally demolished while stonework and furnishings, such as the font and medieval cross were stolen. Tudor stained glass was smashed out and in the mid 19th century a cast iron chancel window was taken for scrap.
By 1987 St Helen’s was in a serious state of disrepair and in 1998 Durham County Council and English Heritage gave permission for the grade II listed building to be de-constructed and rebuilt by Beamish.
The exterior of the church has now been rebuilt – but it has not yet been opened to the public due to a lack of money.
When finished the grounds of the church will house an 1828 hearse, believed to be the oldest in the country.
Museum curator Jim Rees said: “The rebuild was entirely funded by ourselves and it was the lack of money or any grants towards the reconstruction which had meant that so much time had elapsed since we took it down. The delay in final completion is due to having run out of funds for the project. This does not unduly worry me as the lovely new roof and gutters are on, so it is coming to no harm.
“We are unable to set a date for public opening, although all visitors to the museum can at least view the outside of the building now.”
St Helen’s served as a parish church from medieval times until 1884 when a larger one was built nearby. In 1889 St Helen’s became a cemetery chapel but with rapid population growth it became a parish again in the early 1920s.
The last parochial service was held in the church in 1962, before it became a cemetery chapel again until 1985.