A FUNDRAISING campaign has begun to build a new church hall, after its century-old predecessor was destroyed by fire.

Supporters were devastated when St John’s Church Hall, in Meadowfield, near Durham City, was ruined in a suspected arson attack in March.

The cost of the blaze is still being counted, but the charred remains, right down to the foundations, will have to be removed.

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Talks with insurers are continuing, so it is not yet known how much will have to be raised to build a replacement.

But supporters are determined a new facility will be delivered, saying it is desperately needed in the village.

Lesley Baxter, treasurer of the parochial church council, said: “I’ve no idea how much it will cost at the minute. I hope to know in two or three weeks.

“But it’s needed. There’s so much interest in it.”

Various fundraising stunts and events are being planned.

The first is an entertainment night at the nearby Royal British Legion club, featuring live music, karaoke, a disco, drag act and raffle. The June 20 event is now sold out.

The church will host a summer fair on Saturday, June 28, from noon to 2pm, with stalls, a raffle, a bouncy castle and more. Entry is free and the proceeds will be split between the church and the hall project.

The hall was built in 1911. It was in regular use until a few months before the fire, when the heating broke down.

About £25,000 had already been raised for planned internal improvements.

The fire, which is still subject to a police investigation, broke out on the morning of Sunday, March 23 – Ms Baxter’s birthday.

She was informed by a friend but the building was already destroyed when she arrived on scene shortly after 9am.

“If I’d seen it at full blaze it would have been even worse,” she said.

“We were all devastated. We knew how much work had gone into getting it reopened.

“But now it’s showing there’s a real community spirit. People are doing all sorts of things to raise money.”

To support the fundraising, call Ms Baxter on 07846-542-035, email lesleypb@aol.com or visit facebook.com/stjohnschurchhallmeadowfield