Normanby Local History Logo And Banner
Normanby Local History Logo And Banner for printing

Saint Helen's Church
Rebuilding Started at Beamish Open-air Museum
on 21st March 2011

  Normanby Local History Group is very pleased and excited to announce that the old Saint Helen's Church, which had stood in the grounds of Eston Cemetery since the 12th Century and was dedicated for worship in 1393, is being rebuilt at Beamish Open-Air Museum.
  One of our members, Keith Allison, discovered this news on a recent visit to the Museum with his family.
  On the 21st of March this year Beamish began the excavations for the foundations of the Church (see photograph).  It is hoped the masonry will be completed over the next year and then the roof and timber work the year after.  Beamish hope to complete the rebuilding of the Church for Summer season 2012.
  However the reconstruction is being funded entirely by ticket sales so Beamish are dependent on people visiting to be able to continue the rebuild of St. Helen's.
  In 1998 the Church was demolished and taken to Beamish.  All the bricks were numbered in order for the building to be reconstructed exactly as it had been.

Early History

  St. Helen's Church served as a Chapel of Ease until 1545 when the people were given their own priest.  It is also believed that it was used as a respite for pilgrims and travellers between Guisborough Priory, Whitby Abbey and to the North - Lindisfarne.
  St. Helen's was the Parish Church from 1868 until the building of Christ Church, Eston in 1884.  In 1899 it was turned over for use as a cemetery church.  It returned to Parochial status in the 1920's when the need for a church was realized upon the building of the Teesville Estates.
  The Church is reputed to have had a ghost!  The ghost was a monk who was murdered by a musketball fired at him as he left the Church via the priests door.  His gravestone was erected directly outside of the same door and remained there until the desecration of the Church.

Recent History

  St. Helen's Church was well used and a choir was formed in the late 1940's and remained until it's closure in 1985.  A number of Normanby Local History Group members were organists or choristers at the Church (see photograph).  Jim Humphrey was a chorister, Francis Jowsey was an organist and Jacqueline Jowsey was a chorister.  Francis met Jacqueline at St. Helen's - she was 14 and he was 18 at the time.  They fell in love and married in 1960, naming their daughter Helen after the Church!
  The final funeral service was held in St. Helen's in 1985, after which it was sealed up by the local Council.

Vandals and "Re-cycling" -
      - Can You Help Locate Missing Parts?

  Unfortunately, the building was badly vandalized and even set on fire in 1992 causing the roofs to collapse.  The 1822 Vestry was entirely removed by thieves overnight and the Chancel Arch and parts of the medieval Chancel were pulled down.
  The remaining fittings and furnishings including the font also disappeared.  It is believed that much of the stonework may well still exist in local gardens!  We would like to make an appeal to local people to look in their gardens and see if they can find any sandstone blocks which may originate from the Church.
  There now only remains a slight foundation outline of St. Helen's Church with a small commemoration stone showing a painting of the Church as it once proudly stood in Eston Cemetery (see photograph).

Director Appeals for Any Photos of St. Helen's

  It is therefore fantastic news that Beamish Museum have started to reconstruct St. Helen's!  It will be set in the Georgian area at Beamish and will, once it is rebuilt, be amongst the oldest buildings at Beamish (see map with site indicated).  Beamish are using lime mortar to rebuild the masonry as it would have been used in Medieval times, but this requires dry weather to "go off", so we are keeping our fingers crossed for a warm, sunny summer.
  The Museum Curator at Beamish, Jim Rees, said, "I am still desperately short of any images at all of the stained glass window in the South Wall of the Chancel - I know it was of St. Helen, and that Canon Stevenson considered it of Tudor date, but beyond that nothing.  The cast iron window in the same wall was again stolen for scrap and I could do with closer pictures.  So all or any pictures which we could borrow or copy could be a great help, particularly of the areas destroyed by fire or vandals.   Any pre-fire close-up views of practically anything could add details that will help the rebuild be as accurate as possible".
  Normanby Local History Group member Jim Humphrey, who researched and compiled a booklet on St. Helen's Church in 2005 said, "It is great news that the Church is being rebuilt to it's former glory.  After such a wealth of history it will be wonderful to see this Chapel resurrected."

© Amanda Proud.   Normanby History Group

Saint Helen's Church Saint Helen's New Foundations

Saint Helen's Choir 1954

Saint Helen's Church c.1910

Saint Helen's Church location on Beamish Map