Final touches to restoration of fire-damaged church

The installation of the new window Photo: ITV News Tyne Tees

St Brandon's Church had been a place of worship since Mediaeval times. Then, one night in September 1998, hundreds of years of history were destroyed.

Fire swept through the building at Brancepeth in County Durham, leaving little but the shell of the building.

Despite the shock and sadness of the community, efforts began immediately to save and restore the church.

St Brandon's Church after the fire in 1998 Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

Now, more than fifteen years and £3 million pounds later, the final touches are being made to the restoration.

A new stained glass window has been installed at the east end of the church. The modern, bold design has been created by designer Helen Whittaker, at Barley Studio in York. It is called the 'Paradise Window', reflecting St Brandon's own journey to an exotic island, recorded in a book from around 900 AD.

Even for skilled craftspeople, this has been a challenging commission.

"It's the sheer scale of these pieces of glass because each piece of glass has been mouth blown by a human person into a bubble which is then opened up into a sheet. I've been working with stained glass for over forty years and I've never seen a creation quite like this one."

– Keith Barley, Barley Glass Studio
Work on the east window Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees
The interior of the restored church Credit: ITV News Tyne Tees

Despite the church's Saxon origins and Mediaeval structure, the restoration has given the building a light, bright and modern feel.

The same can be said of the new window, which is bold and colourful.

We did not want a window to be a memorial to the fire .. or to our past but to look forward. The building is now both ancient and modern and we wanted the window to reflect this."

– The Rev Rick Simpson, Rector of St Brandon's Church

The east window is the final piece in the restoration jigsaw. The scaffolding will come down shortly. The window will then be dedicated by the new Bishop of Durham at a service on 18th May 2014.

Watch my full report from St Brandon's Church here: