The Church of Our Lady is a striking Grade I listed medieval church in the Parish of Delaval,
Northumberland. With a history connected to the Delaval family and Seaton Delaval Hall. Its long history is evident, with its Anglo-Saxon origins, two striking internal Norman arches, 13th century effigies, classical Georgian ceiling, Victorian stained glass and its colourful Delaval and Astley family hatchments. The church has benefited from an increase in visitors and income since the Hall was acquired by the National Trust, and the church team and its dedicated and knowledgeable band of volunteers have developed a well-received programme of informal guided tours.
The church came into the Inspired Futures project following a major investigation and works programme (funded by the HLF via Grants for Places of Worship) to stabilize serious structural movement in the chancel. With this work underway and initial results suggesting the movement had been stopped, Inspired Futures was an opportunity both to look at the longer term sustainability of the way the building was used. This included the potential for new partnerships, and the need to strengthen management arrangements including the relationship between the PCC and the independent Friends of Our Lady.
Significant progress has been made, although some of the development direction has changed since the initial Way Forward report was prepared. In particular, the issue of the churchyard and the repair of the historically important churchyard wall has emerged as a focus for a new vision based around a community engagement and health and well-being project linked to the churchyard wall repair. Some significant challenges remain, notably around pressing timescales to deliver the proposed churchyard project, and with respect to the effective integration of different interest groups involved with the church.
Through the project Our Lady has secured:
- A memorandum of Understanding with the National Trust
- Detailed assessment and costing of the churchyard wall repair (with funding from Historic England and in kind support from the National Trust)
- Resolution of ownership issues relating the churchyard, and clarity of understanding with Northumberland Council over maintenance responsibilities for the churchyard
- Outline development and planning work for the Well-Being churchyard project
- Advice on funding, and development of a fundraising plan
- Capacity building through the partnership development process
See also the Church of Our Lady end-of-project conference presentation.