A HUGE £900,000 revamp is set to bring a Victorian Methodist chapel into the 21st-century - creating unprecedented access and removing pews.

After 130 years the chapel in Wycar, Bedale, is no longer fit for purpose with some members of the congregation struggling to even get into the building which has four steep steps.

Now the church is preparing to move over the road to the Dales Centre for nine months while extensive work is carried out. Renovations will include lifting floors, raising ceilings, and creating ramps connecting the attached hall which was the original Sunday school to the main church building.

The Reverend Kathleen Wood said they started planning three years ago when Bedale, Aiskew and Crakehall Methodist churches joined together and it was decided Bedale should be the focus of the major redevelopment to create a modern, sustainable, multi-purpose and fully accessible church centre.

The churches at Aiskew and Crakehall have been sold to help provide the money needed, grants have also come from Methodist church trusts and organisations as well as the congregation and supporters.

“The problem is the level between the hall and the church is so different. There are steep steps and it is very difficult for some people to get into the church. So the aim is to join the two buildings together and create a real community place, bringing the whole thing under one roof," said Rev Wood.

“The pews are being taken out, and while this is quite controversial, it will open up the whole church and make it so much more accessible. The church has been well maintained and it is a lovely building but it is not where people are at now.

“People with mobility problems or in wheelchairs have huge difficulties so we want it to bring it into the 21st-century and create a welcoming place for everybody. It will also mean it can be used for community events."

The church was originally built as part of a drive by Methodists to combat major problems of drinking and gambling in Bedale around around 1887.

Locals were converted by John Wesley and joined together with the backing and financial support of the Church of England to build a chapel.

The last service before work starts is on June 3.