The fascinating history of a 12th century church is being uncovered, as vital conservation work has begun.
The restoration project is taking place at St Michael’s and All Angels, in Alnham, Upper Coquetdale.
A £123,500 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund, as well as input from other funders, has paid for the scheme, which aims to remove the Grade 1 listed church from Historic England’s At Risk register.
Just a couple of weeks into the restoration, and pews have been removed, floors lifted, and the walls stripped of damp plaster.
Renowned archaeologist Peter Ryder is overseeing the process and so far hidden arches have been uncovered, a skeleton has been discovered, sketches revealed on some wall panelling and the date of the church’s bell confirmed with an inscription as 1759.
It is hoped that more information will come to light about the history of the church as the stripping back process continues. The project is expected to finish in the early autumn.
The present church dates from the 12th century, but there are some intriguing features which might point to the existence of an even earlier church.
Last restored in the 1950s and recently placed on the At Risk register, St Michael’s had been in need of urgent repair to address a leaking roof and guttering, poor drainage, woodworm and damaged windows.
Andrew Young, Johnny Sordy and Sue Bolam are the volunteers overseeing the project on behalf of the church.
Treasurer Andrew said: “St Michael’s is the only community building in the hamlet of Alnham and so is an important meeting place.
“Our key aims are to conserve this gem of a church and develop it for community use.”
Sue, a local councillor, added: “We would like encourage local people and visitors to visit the church and discover more about its heritage.”
Volunteers are also developing a number of activities to share the church’s heritage with a wider audience.
A new website and visitor leaflet are being designed to raise the profile of the building and to encourage people to explore.
Community heritage events, such as talks and walks, are also in the pipeline, which will be advertised in the local area and on the St Michaels and All Angels Church Alnham Facebook page.