Vision for the future
Described by Nikolaus Pevsner in his 'Buildings of England' as 'uncommonly beautiful', Grade I listed, St. Cuthbert's has largely retained its original medieval style. The church's size, position and history make it a natural focus for civic occasions. The magnificent architecture and superb acoustic have attracted music groups as diverse as the Royal Northern Sinfonia, internationally renowned pianist Benjamin Grosvenor and the Darlington Jazz Festival. However, the current physical constraints of the layout, caused by the fixed furnishings, limit the number and variety of such events.
With the financial support of the Heritage Lottery Fund, St. Cuthbert's has worked alongside key churches in the combined dioceses of Durham and Newcastle to formulate plans to bring about a renewed church that will cherish the history and architecture, whilst remaining a key part of the life of the town both spiritually and socially. Additional funding from the National Churches Trust and the Friends of St. Cuthbert's has enabled us to work with a team of experts including our architect, researchers, heritage consultants and an archaeologist to formulate proposals which have gathered broad approval from the various statutory bodies and Darlington Borough Council.
Plans are now being drawn up to make our church building more accessible, warmer and more of a flexible space. Features such as external ramps will allow entry regardless of disability; under-floor heating will bring much more even warmth; toilet and hospitality facilities will make the building more attractive to worshippers, visitors and those wishing to stage events. We hope to become a place that reflects the life of Darlington: both its past as the oldest building in the town centre and its future as a spiritual and cultural hub at the centre of a thriving town.
The journey so far
Whilst all of this has been going on, we have also been able to carry out a substantial programme of restoration. Over the last five years approaching half a million pounds has been invested in preserving the building. Most of the enormous roof space is now watertight. Stonework above the vestries and South Transept stairs is now safe. The lighting has been renewed, the boilers replaced and nine of the chancel windows have been fully restored. However there is still a long way to go.
There is still work needed, the aisle roofs are in need of attention, the spire requires repointing and there are other windows that require repair. We are investigating ways in which we can renovate the organ as an enhancement to both concerts and worship. Finances are now in place for major repairs to the clock and its faces.