Mining church continues to tell its story

A church with close links to the North-East's mining history has used a generous donation to improve access for visitors.

St Mary's Heworth, Gateshead, is the final resting place of 91 of the 92 men and boys killed in the Felling Colliery Disaster in 1812. The victims of the explosion in the John Pit ranged in age from eight to 65 and accounted for three quarters of the mine's workforce.

Many of the funerals for the victims took place at St Mary's. Sadly, one body was never found.

In response to the disaster, the then vicar John Hodgson campaigned for the improvement of safety in the mines, leading to the creation of the Davy Lamp by Sir Humphrey Davy.

The churchyard is also the burial place of Thomas Hepburn, the first leader of the miners in the area.

A ramp has been added to the main door of the church to improve access for disabled visitors and people with children's buggies.

Vicar at St Mary's, the Reverend Nigel Warner said: "The donation will enable a lot of work not just to improve the access for the disabled but a lot of other work so that when people arrive at the church they will not be disappointed by what they find."

Part of the donation has also been used to fell two mature trees, probably self-seeded.

"For some time, the Parochial Church Council has been concerned about a large sycamore which darkens the church and puts a lot of leave in the gutters. We have also been concerned to improve access through the main door to the church," said Mr Warner.