A CHURCH which was once gutted by fire is set to celebrate its 150th anniversary.

Committee members at St Paul’s Church, in Evenwood, are getting ready to throw a grand Victorian Fair to mark the milestone after a year of preparations.

The free community event will celebrate the building, which has been home to the Church of England congregation since 1867.

Families who moved to the area with the rise of the coal mining industry, initially opposed the build and even staged a protest in 1865 after it was revealed it would be constructed on their beloved green recreational ground.

However, after the Bishop of Durham intervened, an “amicable solution” between the vicar Charles Palmer and the residents was reached and the build went ahead.

And after two years and spending £2,780 – the equivalent of £303,000 today – the church was officially opened on September 18, 1867.

Major alterations, including the installation of a new organ, were carried out in 1890, but disaster struck in 1907 when a fire ravaged the building completely.

The community rallied round to rebuild the church which cost more than it did for the original build.

And it has been going strong ever since, with a refurbishment in 2008, and the committee are hoping to draw in as many residents and former parishioners to celebrate the event.

The event which will feature Spennymoor Brass Band, Victorian games, stalls, fancy dress and shuggy boats on the church green.

The Evenwood Road Runners will also be providing entertainment with a tug of war competition while crafts and food will be on offer too.

However, the main highlight will be a history exhibition from The Evenwood and Ramshaw History Group, who have also created their own historical booklet entitled Things You Didn’t Know About St Paul’s Church, which will be on sale.

Committee member, Brian Carter, said that although there would be some small charges for the children’s games, the event was free and aimed at celebrating the church and community.

He said: “The whole point is to celebrate. If we cover costs we will be more than happy.

“We used to have the carnivals but they became too expensive and to run so they faded. This is an opportunity to open thing up again.”

Fellow member, Jean Bowman added: “We have had flower festivals before but this is doing something out in the community, and to celebrate the church being in the community.”

She added: “It’s seeing the church out there again rather than just in these four walls.”

The group have had support and donations from the diocese and both Evenwood and Barony Parish Council and Durham County Councillors for Evenwood, Heather Smith and Stephen Hugill.

The Fair will be held on September 16, from 1pm until 4pm while the history exhibition will be open on September 17, from 2pm until 4pm and September 18, from 10am until 4pm. A church service will also be held on the Sunday, from 6pm.

For more information search for I Came From Evenwood and Ramshaw on Facebook or to volunteer at the fair call Mrs Bowman on 01388-834355.