A VANDALISED medieval church has reopened as part of a tourist attraction, 40 miles away from its original home.
St Helen’s, in Eston, Middlesbrough, was dismantled stone by stone in 1998, and stored at Beamish Museum in Co. Durham, until funds became available to rebuild it in 2011. Fitting out the interior was delayed until this year, but last month the Bishop of Durham, the Rt Revd Paul Butler, finally launched the 12th-century building in its new location. “I hope that St Helen’s can again become a centrepiece of the community as it once was,” he said.
The church had stood for almost 900 years when it closed in 1985. The empty building then fell prey to thieves and vandals: the font, a medieval cross, and a 19th-century chancel window were stolen; Tudor stained glass was smashed; and arsonists destroyed the roof.
The restoration included installing Georgian box-pews — donated by St Andrew’s, Wiveliscombe, in Somerset — which have been painted with names from St Helen’s 1824 pew-rental list.
The director of Beamish, Richard Evans, said: “As a rule, Beamish never collects important listed buildings such as this. We only acted to save St Helen’s after it became terribly vandalised, and permission was granted for it to be demolished. To see it today is just incredible. It has literally risen out of the ashes.”
Beamish’s assistant director, development, Jim Rees, said: “One of the things I’m really proud about is that, because it’s been so accurately moved, we’ve moved the building’s history with it.”