The story of the church in Middleton St George goes back over 800 years, and that of the Christian faith here even before that.
The earliest evidence is found at St George’s Church in Low Middleton, approximately one mile from Middleton One Row. Although it is a very simple building, the atmosphere, beautiful surroundings and views across the Tees Valley make it a very special place indeed.
St George’s church has a long history dating back to the 13th century. The chancel arch and the south and west walls of the nave are from those years, and the remainder of the structure is from the medieval period. The building has had many alterations along the way and what we see now is the result of major refurbishment in 2010/2011 made possible initially by generous bequests from local families.
As local industry developed and more people moved into what is now Middleton St George, the church of St Laurence was built in 1871. St Laurence’s continued to provide a place of worship and serve an ever growing community until, in the 1980’s, the chancel had to be bolted at ground level because of movement in the east wall. This was followed in recent years by movement in the vestry wall, evidenced by the fact that it was separating from the west wall.
Due to this the building was inspected by Ecclesiastical Insurance who subsequently declined to provide Public Liability Insurance to the church and forced the building to be closed to the public.
Detailed discussions took place with the Diocese of Durham, the Church Commissioners, insurers and others and, to the great sadness of the church and the local community, the decision was made to formally close the church in June 2012 and, in 2015, the building was sold to become one private dwelling.
However, the Garden of Remembrance did not change ownership and remains the responsibility of the local church. The War Memorial remains in the ownership of the village with the Parish Council overseeing its repair and maintenance.
In many communities, the closure of a church building too often means the closure of the church there. In Middleton St George, however, the congregation of St Laurence’s faithfully continues to meet for worship at 10.45am each Sunday morning in St George’s Church of England Academy. We also use St George’s Church for special services such as baptisms, weddings and funerals.
As a church, we strive still to serve God and our community just as the very earliest worshippers at St George’s did.