Fundraisers have launched a campaign to renovate a Victorian church on the Newby Hall estate in Ripon.

As Newby and its award-winning gardens prepare to open for the 2024 season, the Church of Christ the Consoler is at the centre of a renovation project organised by the estate and villagers.

Christ the Consoler was built in the early 1870s with unpaid ransom money in memory of the son of Lady Mary Vyner of Newby Hall who was killed during his attempted rescue from kidnappers in Greece.

She commissioned British architect William Burges to design the church, a fine example of Victorian Gothic Revival architecture in England. The best craftsmen were used to create a rich and colourful interior of fine marble, stained glass, gilded mosaics and exquisite carvings on the organ case.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Guy Critchlow, chairman of Skelton cum Newby Parish Council inside the Church of Christ the

Burges also designed St Mary’s Church at the nearby Studley Royal estate for Frederick’s sister and her husband, the Marquess and Marchioness of Ripon.

Christ the Consoler was the parish church of Skelton cum Newby until 1991 and is now cared for by the Churches Conservation Trust.

The "Friends of Christ the Consoler" are on a mission to bring life to the church through events while at the same time raising funds to deliver key renovation projects.

Priorities include reinstating the church’s boiler and heating system which has not worked for 30 years. This will help preserve the church’s stained glass, some of which has deteriorated over the years due to humidity levels.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Guy Critchlow, chairman of Skelton cum Newby Parish Council inside the Church of Christ the

The Friends also want to restore the church’s Thomas C Lewis organ which has recently been given Grade I listed status. Lewis was one of the leading organ builders of the late 19th Century and other notable Lewis organs include the one at Ripon Cathedral.

The campaign group is made up of representatives from the Newby Hall estate and Skelton cum Newby Parish Council and needs to raise more than £15,000 to reinstate the church’s heating system.

Parish council chairman Guy Critchlow said: “The church is in a beautiful location and has some of the finest stained glass in the country. Recommissioning the heating system is the first step to help stabilise the stained glass. Our aim is to bring life to the church through events and raise much needed funds for its restoration and conservation.”

The church’s single bell has already been restored and re-strung and now rings for the first time in over 20 years.

Stuart Gill, commercial director at Newby Hall, said: “We are delighted to collaborate with the parish council to breathe new life into the church and create an environment that visitors and the local community can share and enjoy.”

The Friends of Christ the Consoler is finalising a programme of events including music, theatre and services for 2024, including an Easter Sunday Family Service with Easter Egg hunt on Sunday, March 31. 

Newby Hall opens on March 28.