THE oldest church in Darlington has been saved after almost reaching its fundraising target of £95,000.

A year after revealing that it faced a huge bill to replace dangerous wiring, St Andrew's Church, in Haughton, is to undergo extensive repair work.

After the problems were uncovered by building experts, supporters of the church quickly raised £25,000 towards the appeal.

Twelve months later, the total stands at £87,000, allowing the building to be rewired and redecorated over the 12 weeks.

The Norman door in the West Tower will also be refurbished, making access to the church easier and safer.

In addition, new lighting and sound systems will be installed, allowing people with hearing and vision problems to get more enjoyment out of their visits to church.

Funding for the project has come from a variety of sources, including the Alan Evans Memorial Trust and the Garfield-Weston Foundation, after the church failed in a bid to secure cash from the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Appeal organisers say they will continue to seek a grant from the fund for development of an educational facility on the church site, for use by local schools and history groups.

Church services are to move to the church hall for three months, with Sunday School groups meeting in the rectory and Scouts hut.

The church's rector, the Reverend David Bryan, said: "While we will miss our familiar surroundings, I think that we are looking forward to the adventure. Being in a less formal setting could have many benefits.

"The extent to which the church is supported by the local community has been astounding."

The work is expected to be completed in time for the Christmas carol service on December 19 and for an opening celebration weekend, starting on January 10.

The church was founded in 1125 on the site of a Saxon church believed destroyed 50 years earlier by the Normans.