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Church's medieval glory revealed.

WORKERS are turning the clock back as they transform a former medieval church on Tyneside into a heritage centre.

The whole of the inside of the former St. Mary's Church, beside The Sage Gateshead, has been completely stripped as part of a pounds 1.2m plan to turn the building into a new visitor attraction.

For the first time in decades the inside has reverted back to the way it was for centuries of worshippers.

A mezzanine floor, constructed during the 90s when the church briefly became an auction house, has been taken down and removed, interior walls have been demolished and staircases and modern floor coverings removed. Now with the interior of the Grade I listed building returned to its medieval form, work to convert it to the new Gateshead Heritage Centre can get under way.

Peter Udall, head of design services for Gateshead Council, said "We've reached an exciting point. By taking away everything modern from it's interior, we've at last been able to reveal the full majesty of this simple yet beautiful church."

Stonework damaged by smoke and flames in a huge fire which gutted the church in 1979 was hidden by the mezzanine floor but won't be restored because it is seen as being part of the building's 900-year chequered history. The building, which until recently was home to Gateshead Visitor Centre, is to have a new glazed entrance, visitor facilities, reception area and an education suite. The major part of the building will be a huge oak-floored exhibition space containing a series of interactive displays chronicling the history of Gateshead and St Mary's.

Coun Linda Green, cabinet spokesman for culture, said: "As Gateshead's town centre prepares for a period of major reconstruction, it's only right that we safeguard and invest in our more historic structures, especially those so close to the town centre."

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INVESTMENT: Coun Linda Green
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:Dec 21, 2007
Words:314
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