An Anglican Church with a 200-year-link with the North East of England’s mining history has spent a generous donation on improving access for visitors, including the disabled.St Mary’s in Heworth, Gateshead, in the Diocese of Durham, decided to spend some of the donation given by someone with a long connection with the church on felling two mature trees, probably self-seeded, which had been reducing light to the church and depositing leaves in its guttering.
The donation and the removal of the trees is also allowing the creation of a ramp which will help with disabled access and wheeled items such as children’s buggies it will also make it easier for funeral services.
Vicar the Revd Nigel Warner said: “For some time, the Parochial Church Council has been concerned about a large sycamore which darkens the church and puts a lot of leave in the gutters. We have also been concerned to improve access through the main door to the church.
“The donation will enable a lot of work not just to improve the access for the disabled but a lot of other work so that when people arrive at the church they will not be disappointed by what they find.“
The church’s links with mining including dealing with the aftermath of the Felling Colliery Disaster in 1812 when there was an explosion in the John Pit which killed 92 men and boys, three quarters of the mine’s workforce. Their ages were between 8 and 65 years and many of the funerals took place at St Mary‘s and 91 of those killed were buried in the churchyard; one body was never found.
In the aftermath, the vicar of St Mary’s John Hodgson was instrumental in safety campaigning which led to the creation of the Davy Lamp by Sir Humphrey Davy. Nigel Warner added: “In recognition of his work on in helping the development of the Davy Lamp this he was elected to the Royal Society, but sadly wasn’t able to take up his membership as he couldn’t afford the subscription.”
The churchyard is also the final resting place of Thomas Hepburn, the first leader of the miners in the area.
* An audio report on this story can be found at http://audioboo.fm/boos/1254607-church-spends-donation-to-improve-access