CONTROVERSIAL and ambitious plans to bring an ancient Grade I-listed church, originally mentioned in the Domesday Book, into the 21st-century have been unveiled.

Church leaders at St Gregory’s in Bedale want to take out the majority of pews, install underfloor heating, toilets and a servery, move the font, create an extra altar, improve floodlighting, and open up the church in a £1.5m revamp.

The aim is to create a wider open space for greater community use, and have information and background on the heritage of the church, large parts of which date back over 700 years. It is acknowledged as one of the most important historic buildings in the region with a rare defensive fortified tower, built in 1330 as a place of refuge from the marauding Scots.

A week of consultation is now underway with displays of plans and drawings in the Chantry Hall, next to the church.

The Rector, the Reverend Ian Robinson, said he understood some residents might not welcome the changes, but said it was an important part of taking the church into the 21st-century.

“The hope is it becomes a much larger space for events, and concerts. It won’t be competing with Bedale Hall, it will have a different market," he said.

“It would put the church even more at the heart of the community. Realistically we are looking at five years with the work done in phases. The pews could be replaced with movable benches or individual chairs.We also want to make more of the heritage of the building.

“The layout of the church as it is now, with fixed pews, was largely created in the 1850s."

Information about the plans can be found at