A MEDIEVAL church forced to close for a year after being targeted by lead thieves seven times reopened at the weekend.

The interior of St Cuthbert’s Church in Redmarshall, near Stockton-on-Tees, was badly damaged in November last year when water poured through the roof, destroying 17th century pews and electrics.

The lead had been stolen from the 13th century church’s roof for the seventh time in three months and the last theft caused a deluge of water to pour into the church, forcing it to close.

Now after a mammoth fundraising effort by its small congregation, which has raised more than £45,000 in just 13 months, the church opened its doors again at the weekend – with a new, stainless steel roof.

The pews were renovated, the Church fully redecorated, carpets professionally cleaned and the electrics completely overhauled, including a new lighting conductor.

Initially the cost was expected to be about £30,000, but after two companies working with the church went into administration the costs spiralled.

The church could only insure itself against lead theft for up to £5,000 a year so it had to meet the full costs of the renovation.

And parishioners had to enter into detailed negotiations with English Heritage to obtain permission to replace the roof of the Grade-1 listed building with stainless steel.

Church warden Eric Smalley said: “We are still short of about £4,000 but we have been able to get that underwritten.

“We have had good friends in Carlton Methodist Chapel who took on the waifs and strays and allowed us to hold services and meetings there. They have been extremely helpful.

“Church services have been held at St Cuthbert’s for 800 years and this was the first time that they had to be relocated.”

Celebrations at the weekend included an evening concert, coffee morning and a rededication service which took place last night (SUNDAY DECEMBER 2).Darlington and Stockton Times: TARGETED: Damage to the roof at the time

The Archdeacon the Ven Nick Barker led the service with songs of praise including favourite hymns selected by parishioners.

The events were to thank the benefactors, individuals and organisations like Impetus and Banks Community Fund, and various charities for their support.

Anyone who can help with fundraising can contact Mr Smalley on e.smalley183@btinternet.com