Chapel rises from ashes

Ellingham Hall fire. Pumps from Berwick, Belford, Seahouses, Wooler and Alnwick attended. All residents evacuated safely.
Ellingham Hall fire. Pumps from Berwick, Belford, Seahouses, Wooler and Alnwick attended. All residents evacuated safely.

THE memory of a much-loved daughter has been rebuilt into a country house chapel destroyed by flames last year.

A blaze ripped through the 19th century Gothic chapel attached to Ellingham Hall last May.

Ellingham Hall chapel which has been restored following the  fire.

Ellingham Hall chapel which has been restored following the fire.

But for owners Aidan and Helen Ruff, it was nothing compared to losing their beloved daughter Bethany the day before.

Now the chapel has been rebuilt and some of Bethany’s ashes have been put into the foundations to keep a piece of her with the family wherever they are.

In just five months, the chapel has been reconstructed with new elements added to make it better than before.

Work didn’t start until November, because of insurance investigations, and a few days after starting, the snow arrived, meaning the work was put back to February.

Ellingham Hall detail on a fireplace.

Ellingham Hall detail on a fireplace.

“Our original plan was to do it in eight months,” Aidan said.

“But we managed it in five.

“And it is absolutely fabulous. We are really pleased with it. I managed every section of the building myself and we used a local contractor, JT Mossman, as the main guys, although we had a whole bunch of different people in.

“It is a fabulous building, but it is very different now.

Aiden Ruff in the chapel at Ellingham Hall which has been restored following the  fire.

Aiden Ruff in the chapel at Ellingham Hall which has been restored following the fire.

“And we put some of Bethany’s ashes in there too so she is there as well.”

“Although the fire was an awful event, and it was, it was devastating, we tried to use it in a positive way and come out with something better.”

Despite the fire, functions have continued to take place.

And Aidan added that business at the hall, which includes holiday cottages at the site, is now booming.

“Two-and-a-half years ago, there was myself, my wife and one person working full-time,” he said. “Now we have got 14 members of staff.”

New parts of the hall have also been re-discovered.

There used to be a minstrels’ gallery at the hall and that has been opened up, which has led to a roof terrace being accessible to guests for the first time.

“We used to go up there to sunbathe but wouldn’t let guests up because it was too dangerous,” Aidan added.

“But now we can and its absolutely beautiful.”

Bethany, 16, was severely disabled and needed 24-hour care after being starved of oxygen when she was just a few months old.

She was fitted with a life-changing pump which delivered the medicine Baclofen into her spine. But an inquest into the her death found that a tube which fed the medicine to her body had split, causing her to suffer from Baclofen withdrawal syndrome.