PICKERING Parish Church has been closed to the public for four months while vital restoration work is carried out.

As part of the work at St Peter and St Paul’s Church, the old heating system, which was put in more than 140 years ago, will be removed and a new, underfloor system installed.

Father Antony Pritchett, the Vicar of Pickering, said: “The old heating system was installed in 1877 and much of it hasn’t worked properly for years meaning the church never really gets properly warm in winter.

“Eighteen months ago, a small section of pipe failed, draining the entire system into the fabric of the church. That one repair cost more than £7,000 to fix and we are aware of other pipes also corroded, which could fail at any time.

“Also, we’ve been unable to maintain a constant temperature when the church isn’t being used, meaning it can be colder inside than out, and the great fluctuations in temperature are not good for the building or for the important medieval wall-paintings.

“Obviously we’re sad that the church will have to be closed for the next four months, but for reasons of health and safety, we really have no choice.

“However, the church will be open for Sunday worship and for pre-booked weddings and concerts, and the Roucliffe Chapel, accessible from outside, will be signposted so that those who wish to pray and light candles can still do so.”

Fr Antony said that generous personal donations to the church and money from fundraising events has enabled the major project to go ahead now.

“We realise that there may be a few occasions when it might not be possible to hold a funeral in the parish church, and we are immensely grateful to our friends from Pickering’s Roman Catholic and Methodist Churches who have offered their buildings to us for those times,” he added.

“This all means short-term inconvenience to the many locals, as well as to the thousands of visitors who would usually visit Pickering’s Parish Church, but the long term benefits of the new underfloor heating system will be beneficial to all, helping provide a better visitor experience and helping protect better the wonderful wall-paintings for the nation.”