Church’s Victorian heating system restored to keep congregation warm

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THE congregation at an historic church in a Yorkshire national park will no longer have to endure services in the freezing cold after a Victorian heating system inspired by the ancient Romans has been restored.

Work has been undertaken to renovate the underfloor hypocaust heating system at Pockley Church, near Helmsley, in a move that clergy have claimed will give the building a new lease of life.

The project has cost £3,500 and was financed by the North York Moors National Park Authority as well as the area’s hugely successful Leader programme, which has allocated £3.1m to more than 200 schemes since the start of 2009.

The priest in charge of the church, the Rev Andrew De Smet, said: “Without the support of the national park authority we could have never accomplished this project, which has injected new life into the church and enables us to hold functions in addition to our church services. Thankfully these are no longer held in the cold.”

While many churches employ a hot air heating system, the building in Pockley is unusual as it has a solid fuel boiler that is fed by an underground railway track through a tunnel leading to the outside of the premises.

The bell tower is also the chimney which over the years had become blocked by debris from jackdaws. The original flue and air vent had to be adapted to allow a modern multi-fuel stove to be employed, and the hypocaust system which dates from 1870 is now back in use. Hypocausts were originally developed 2,000 years ago by the Romans to heat baths, houses and other buildings.

Among the additional events at Pockley Church will be musical evenings, which will take advantage of the building’s impressive acoustics.

An open afternoon will be held between 2pm and 4pm on Monday next week to celebrate the completion of the heating project. More information about staging events is available from church warden John Ashworth on 01439 770219 or via email at