A HUGE fire broke out in one of a town's most historic buildings, causing the roof to cave in.

It was confirmed that the fire caused 100 per cent damage to the roof and fourth floor of the former Wesleylan church property in Hartlepool, which was built in the 1800s.

The blaze led to roads in the centre of town being closed.

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A spokeswoman for Cleveland Fire Brigade said firefighters had returned to the scene after the roof of the building caved in.

Witness Rona Turton said she could feel the heat, adding: “It has been a crazy night, awful to watch.

“The heat was intense and I didn’t know if it was going to explode at one point.

“It’s just smoke now – the firefighters have been amazing.”

CHRISTMAS lights were switched on in memory of football mascot Bradley Lowery.

The youngster’s three cousins switched on Christmas lights on the roundabout outside County Hall in Durham, with decorations including two illuminated reindeers and a Christmas tree.

Bradley himself had switched on the Christmas lights the year before, and following Bradley's death from a rare form of childhood cancer in the summer, his cousins Jorja Stonebank, eight, Lasey, seven, and Harley Jay, six, all helped in lighting up the tree.

Cllr Bill Kellett, chairman of Durham County Council, said: “Bradley was such an inspiring boy and I know he really enjoyed turning the Christmas lights on.

"Wherever he went, he made everyone smile.

"This year I was happy to switch the Christmas lights on with his cousins in his memory.”

A RARE natural phenomenon was captured on a North-East river.

Ice pancakes were spotted along the River Tees, near Darlington by award winning photographer, Paul Kingston.

The bitter temperatures the night before had caused huge frozen discs to form along the river edges, with the ice pancakes able to reach a thickness of 10cm, depending on the conditions.

AT The Northern Echo’s Local Heroes Awards, the inspirational life of “the real winner of the Great North Run” was honoured after his death earlier that week.

Matt Hadden, 28, from Dalton-on-Tees, near Darlington, inspired millions when he completed the half-marathon in September despite being given a terminal cancer diagnosis.

A minute’s applause rang around the Grand Marquee at Wynyard Hall as he was announced as a finalist for the Remarkable Achievement Award.

Mr Hadden’s mother Sarah said: “He just proved to everyone that no matter what you face in life, you can still do amazing things.”

She added: “He was so proud and humbled to be nominated as a finalist and we, as a family, are delighted his story will be highlighted in this way.”

The overall Local Hero Award went to 80-year-old John Moore, who has dedicated his life to nurturing sport at the grassroots and continues to coach at Sedgefield 75 Swimming Club. Despite his age and deteriorating health, Mr Moore – who also scooped the Bobby Robson Leading Light honour – was described as the epitome of why the awards were established 18 years ago.

Event host and founder, former editor of The Northern Echo Peter Barron said: “He has given a lifetime of dedication to nurturing sport at the grass roots and has produced champions and didn’t let serious health problems get in the way.

“He’s still out there, coaching, guiding, showing the way, and making a splash at the age of 80.”

SPECIALIST children’s theatre the Hullabaloo was launched in Darlington in December, and bosses said they were confident the venue will attract productions “from around the world”.

The £2.7m venue has been specially designed for young people and was funded by Arts Council England and Darlington Borough Council.

The theatre, off Borough Road, is the only specialist venue of its type outside London.

Miranda Thain, Theatre Hullabaloo’s creative producer, said: “It is a really special place – we have great packed programme of events.

“It is a difficult time for the council, but together we have created something that will bring theatre from around the world to Darlington.”

The new venue includes a 150-seat studio theatre, creative play installation space, family café area, rehearsal studio and external play space. Pupils of The Rydal Academy, in Darlington, helped to open the venue.

THE North-East was graced with a performance from rock band Queen, featuring Adam Lambert when the band brought its sold-out tour to Newcastle arena.

American Idol runner-up Lambert thanked original band members Brian May and Roger Taylor for letting him perform with them. He also said he was 'no Freddie', much to the amusement of the crowd.

The band opened with the classic anthem We Will Rock You.

The gig saw an array of outfits by flamboyant Lambert who could be seen in a gold cape crown for the encore as he performed We Will Rock You and We Are the Champions.

A COUNCIL lambasted for its “embarrassing” Christmas tree made improvements – and asked residents to show some love for the tree.

There was an angry backlash on social media about the way the lights had been draped on to the tree in Darlington town centre, with one saying it looked like “something Delboy and Rodney would do”.

Darlington Borough Council even had to warn a group of people – who had arranged to meet at the town tree on Friday to improve it – not to cross the barriers surrounding the tree in case of an accident.

A council spokesman said: “Show some love for our Christmas tree. Thanks to everyone who has commented on its appearance since the lights switch on.

“In response, we’ve moved some of the lights as well as adding some more yesterday."

AND after much to-ing and fro-ing, it was announced a deal had been struck to conclude the first phase of Brexit talks.

The size of the so-called “divorce bill” – £35-£39bn – emerged after European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker announced he was recommending leaders of the remaining 27 EU states give a green light to the start of trade talks.

The breakthrough was hailed by Prime Minister Theresa May as “a hard-won agreement in all our interests”, while European Commission president Mr Juncker said it represented “sufficient progress” for negotiations to move on to their second phase.