Work gets underway in the Allen Valleys
A BUILDING that was bestowed to the people of the Allen Valleys in the 1850s and which has been falling into disrepair is about to undergo restoration works which will give it a new lease of life as a shelter for walkers.
Gifted by local philanthropist
Ninebanks hearse house was gifted to the area by local philanthropist Isaac Holden in response to a demand for improvements to burials and to cope with the aftermath of diseases.
The building has not been in use since the 1930s but thanks to a joint effort by local historian Roger Morris and a five-year project by the North Pennines AONB Partnership to preserve and restore parts of the Allen Valleys, it will remain intact as one of the area’s key heritage structures.
‘Preserved for years to come’
Mr Morris, who also devised Isaac’s Tea Trail – a circular walk of 36 miles – in tribute to the Methodist benefactor, said he was delighted that the building was going to be saved. He said: “I’m absolutely thrilled. It’s part of history and now it’s going to be preserved for years to come.”
As the Victorians became more fascinated with burials, the opening of the hearse house drew crowds. It is thought that more than 3,000 people turned out to see its unveiling.
Part of a five-year scheme
The cost of restoring the hearse house will come from the £1.7m grant awarded by the Heritage Lottery Fund to the AONB Partnership to implement the Allen Valleys Landscape Partnership Scheme which will see an array of work being carried out across the special landscape including the management of woodlands, restoration of hay meadows and the creation of a community observatory.
Andy Lees, from the AONB Partnership who manages the AVLPS, said: “We are now in the second year of the five year project and Ninebanks hearse house is the first building to benefit from the conservation plan that we have agreed on.
‘Important part of the area’s history’
“The hearse house is a really important part of the area’s history, as was its patron, Isaac Holden. And we are already progressing plans to use the restored hearse house as a shelter for walkers and as a place to tell the story of Ninebanks and of Isaac himself.”
But for Roger Morris, the work at the hearse house, which has a roof of stone slabs and blue slate, is particularly poignant after ten years of work researching the life of Isaac Holden.
‘It provided dignity in death’
“This was a very special building as Isaac was a special man. He was driven to do good by his Methodist convictions for the community he lived in. For the Victorians, death was very much a part of life and Isaac wanted people to have dignity in death. And the hearse house was his swansong. He sadly died within 12 months of its opening and was one of the first people to use it.”
For more information on the Allen Valleys Landscape Partnership Project visit www.northpennines.org.uk or call Andy Lees, North Pennines AONB Partnership on 01434 683517.
Released: 28 October 2015