THE campaign to save an historic listed chapel has turned to modern means with the launch of an online fundraising drive.

High House Chapel in Weardale – the world’s oldest purpose built, continuously used Methodist chapel, is in such urgent need of structural repairs that services there were stopped last October.

Volunteers who run the Weardale Museum, which has occupied the old manse since 1985, hope to raise £35,000 to buy the building before applying for grants for the renovation.

The Friends of High House Chapel have taken their cash crusade online, setting up fundraising pages on both the Just Giving and Crowdfunder websites in a bid to reach potential donors far and wide so they are not constantly asking more of existing supporters.

Spokesman David Heatherington said: “This allows us to reach a bigger audience, previous fundraisers have been relying on the same few people in the community.”

Built in 1760, High House Chapel was part of the birth of the Methodist movement in the North-East and used to see 300 to 400 worshippers in its heyday in mid-19th century.

After a structural survey in 2017 found significant problems including dry rot, wet rot and damp, the local Methodist Fellowship decided the task of repair and renovation of the Grade II listed building was too much to take on. Instead they recommended its sale to the museum to develop it into a larger heritage centre and arts venue.

Mr Heatherington said the congregation, which is down to 15, currently worships in a village hall but he hopes a flexible space could be created so they can return to the chapel in the future.

Fundraising events so far have included a ceilidh, and art and craft weekend, an auction of promises and concerts.

He said the proposed heritage centre would feature new displays and create an experience that people would come back to regularly and could also feature a performance space and café.

Taking inspiration from the Quaker tapestries, the team at Weardale Museum has a vision of a similar feature to tell the story of the chapel as well as Methodism worldwide.

Depending on funding and the scale of the work, they hope to get the chapel open as soon as late 2020.

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