A restored Yarm Town Hall has moved closer to completion with renovations complete ready for fitting out as a new “heritage centre”.

The 18th-century grade II listed landmark on High Street is now ready to be fitted out with exhibits and features as Yarm Heritage Centre.

The outside has been renovated with its original eight arches opened up and fitted with glazing, along with a repainted clock tower and restored weather vane.

A centrepiece will be ‘An Island In The River’, a permanent display with memories and artefacts including a replica of the first ever Viking helmet found in Britain, a fire and flood bell dating back to the site’s previous use as a toll booth, a ceremonial sword belonging to lord of the manor Thomas Meynell and a bushel measure from the original weighbridge.

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Key historical objects and stories will be linked to community groups and present-day life in the town on the ground floor.

Themes including wars, the river, the environment, industry, entertainment and the restoration itself will be explored in exhibitions upstairs with a meeting space and learning area.

Organisers say they have been careful and sensitive with the £600,000 project to keep the building’s character, stabilising features like sloping floors, a fireplace and clock tower ladders.

The Northern Echo: Yarm Town Hall with Peter Monck and Nigel Cooke by GLYarm Town Hall with Peter Monck and Nigel Cooke by GL (Image: LDR)

Modern additions include LED lighting, iPads with headphones, new efficient heating and night-time projections of a holographic film of the River Tees, celebrating the powerful connection between the town and the river.

Yarm Town Council chairman Councillor Peter Monck has worked for four years to revive the project and bring a long-held dream to fruition, linking with schools, volunteers, architects, builders and groups.

He said: “I just can’t put into words how important this has been for me and how much I appreciate all the work that’s gone in.

The Northern Echo: Councillor Peter Monck, chairman of Yarm Town Council, in front of the restored Yarm Town Hall.Councillor Peter Monck, chairman of Yarm Town Council, in front of the restored Yarm Town Hall. (Image: LDR)

“We’ve now got this iconic building back even better than it was when it was built. It’s not been without its issues, as happens with historic buildings, but the end result is absolutely unbelievable.

“I’ve been involved with the council for over 30 years. I’ve seen things happen in the background and thought, this has to happen.

“Covid came and stopped everything, but it just carried on. It’s come out far better than I ever envisaged it would. It’s really a big thank you to everybody involved in it.

The Northern Echo: Inside the newly restored Yarm Town HallInside the newly restored Yarm Town Hall (Image: LDR)

“We’ve now got a heritage centre to promote the past, present and future heritage of Yarm. I know people are going to be really impressed with what we have planned to do inside.

“When it was built in 1710 the ground floor was a market cross with all the arches open. That’s what we wanted to try to achieve, to put it back as it was, albeit with a modern twist to it. That’s been achieved brilliantly.

“This was built before America was founded and it’s stood the test of time. Over recent years there’s been deterioration in the building which is the first reason I wanted to do this, to restore it to its original form.”

The Northern Echo: Councillor Peter Monck, chairman of Yarm Town Council, in front of the restored Yarm Town HallCouncillor Peter Monck, chairman of Yarm Town Council, in front of the restored Yarm Town Hall (Image: LDR)

The proposals were developed by Yarm Town Council and Stockton Council, with money from the government’s Levelling Up Fund, the town council and borough council’s town centres investment programme, and work by Wharton Construction, architects Howarth Litchfield, artist Matthew Rosier and media arts organisation Mediale.

Cllr Nigel Cooke, Stockton Council’s regeneration cabinet member, said: “I’ve been coming here since I was a kid. it’s been well worth the wait. It’s exceeded my expectations.

“It’s a real privilege to be involved in this. We were very pleased to be able to invest in this scheme and it’ll benefit many generations.

It’s about the next 50 years, the next 100 years. I’m sure many schoolchildren will enjoy coming here and learning about the history, and adults like myself.”

The town council will now start the fit-out of exhibition spaces and heritage programme, with a bid going in to the National Lottery Heritage Fund and volunteers coming forward for a Friends of the Yarm Heritage Centre group to manage it. The centre is set to open in late autumn.