Hotts, Ireshopeburn, Bishop Auckland, DL13 1HD
In March 2018 the Museum received the devastating news that High House Chapel would close and the Museum would need to seek new premises. After a year of stress and uncertainty " The Trustees of the Weardale Museum agreed in principle to explore the possibility of purchasing High House Chapel from The Methodist Church”.
This is a huge decision for the Museum but it provides the opportunity to expand physically and to recruit many new followers who are keen to help to preserve the Historic Chapel.
The decision to close the Chapel for worship was taken very reluctantly by the Fellowship who do not have the capacity or the resources to carry out necessary repairs and renovations to their building. Appeals during the last twelve months to Methodist Headquarters to come up with a scheme to save the oldest Methodist Chapel in continuous use were unsuccessful.
The project involves the purchase of the Chapel property, repair and renovation and adaptions to make the building more accessible and suitable as a venue for events and displays at a cost of about £600,000.
The Museum will continue in its present building but will make more use of the chapel and its bigger spaces to tell an expanded heritage story, while offering the present fellowship the invitation to worship there again once the work is completed.
The Trustees finally secured purchase of the chapel from the Methodist Church on 30th June 2020 and are now setting about submitting plans and grant applications to bring about the restoration.
The Weardale Museum Trustees wish to thank all of our members and Friends for their generous donations which have enabled us to raise the purchase price for High House Chapel.
This is the start of our journey to carry out the repairs and renovations which will be necessary to acheive our aim to turn the building into a heritage centre which celebrates the heritage of this historic building and creates a space for a wide range of activities and events. Your continued support is much appreciated.
Competition for grants is very competitive at the moment but we are encouraged by the success of Nenthead Arts and Visitors Centre in transforming their old Chapel. (below)
COVID 19 has severely restricted capital grant applications but we are doing the things we can. One of our projects is to raise match funding to have the historic organ restored.
One of the key features of the Chapel is the Vincent Organ which was the first pipe organ acquired by Methodists in Weardale. The organ is a very fine instrument made by C J Vincent of Sunderland in around 1872. It has been in the Chapel since 1884 but there is the story of a great tragedy behind it.
The organ was bought from the Victoria Hall in Sunderland where, in 1883, a concert was held for children. With the promise of prizes many children rushed down the stairs from the gallery but a door on one of the landings had been bolted with only a narrow gap. In the crush that followed 183 children lost their lives, most being suffocated.
Its beautiful and melodious sound has been heard for over 135 years at services, concerts and special occasions with its rich clear tone a tribute to the builder and all those who have followed him. It is very important to the Museum that the Organ continues to play a part in its future but it needs to be dismantled, removed and refurbished before taking pride of place once more.
The estimated costs for these works is £16,000, we have already received a generous grant which will meet half this cost but as a small volunteer run museum we need to raise the rest. We are appealing to music lovers, historians and the people of the North East to help us preserve this treasure for future generations. ...