Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Praised to the Heavens; Conversion of Church Wins Leading Award

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Praised to the Heavens; Conversion of Church Wins Leading Award

Article excerpt

Byline: Tony Henderson

THE transformation of a Tyneside medieval church into a heritage centre scooped an award last night.

A pounds 1.2m conversion of St. Mary's Church, which sits high above the River Tyne near The Sage Gateshead, received the accolade at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) North East awards.

The St Mary's project by Gateshead Council Design Services was funded by the council, the European Regional Development fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund.

Records from the 13th Century list a succession of rectors, the first being Robert de Plessis in 1242.

Until 1825 all marriages and burials in the borough had to be performed in St Mary's.

After it ceased to be used as a church, the building became an auction room.

When construction work began in September 2007, the interior of the Grade 1-listed church had modern partitions, an upper floor and galleries which had to be stripped out before the building, now called Gateshead Heritage@St Mary's, could be returned as far as possible to its medieval form.

It now contains a series of interactive displays chronicling Gateshead's - and St Mary's - history, as well as a family history area.

St Mary's was one of seven award winners at the RIBA ceremony at the Artwork Galleries at the Ouseburn in Newcastle.

Head of North East RIBA, Jon Jo Macnamara, said: "Even in these challenging economic times we are seeing imaginative, exciting and stunning work by local practitioners - which is good news for architecture in general and great news for our region." The awards are given to buildings which have high architectural standards and make a substantial contribution to the local environment.

There was another award for the restored Tyneside Cinema in Pilgrim Street, Newcastle, and the project's Fletcher Priest Architects.

Last month the cinema took three prizes at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors North East Renaissance Awards at Newcastle Civic Centre.

The visitor centre at the heart of a pounds 7m nature reserve also won its second award in a matter of weeks.

The centre at the 1,000-acre Saltholme wildlife reserve and discovery park on Teesside was designed by Newcastle-based architects Jane Darbyshire & David Kendall Ltd (JDDK). …

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