Major work has now started at the church in Shilbottle, with the help of a Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) grant of £66,000.
The Open Church Project at St James’ will ensure its conservation in good repair as a place of worship and open it up for greater community benefit and use.
Thanks to money raised by National Lottery players, the first job is to carry out the essential repairs and conservation work to the tower and stonework. Kitchen facilities and an accessible toilet will also be installed.
In a second phase financed by parishioners themselves plus a grant from Northumberland County Council, an oak and glass screen will be installed to create a transept room to open onto a presentation space within the main body of the church.
In addition to providing extra seating, this versatile new space will be available for local schools and community groups for concerts, events and presentations.
While the repairs and changes will be quite extensive, the church will remain open for services throughout.
A main aim of the project is to ensure that the church, as well as being a place of worship, becomes a centre for local heritage so a permanent display will be created.
The local area has a varied history, both mining and agricultural, and a newly-formed local history group is currently in the process of collating memories of residents and historical records.
Volunteers will be given training so they can help maintain and care for the collection in the future.
Project coordinator Chris Lendrum said: “We’re delighted that we’ve received this support thanks to National Lottery players, which together with the generosity of friends of the church brings us a step closer to ensuring that St James’ Church is fit for another century of service to the people of the area.”
St. James’, constructed in 1885, is a grade II*-listed, classic late Victorian church, funding for which came from local subscription. It stands on the site of an earlier Norman church; the church register dates from 1681.
It has a beautiful arts and crafts East Window, commissioned by the women of Shilbottle and district by subscription in 1921 as a memorial to their men lost in the First World War.