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This unusual structure is a lych gate (‘lych’ rhymes with ‘itch’). It is a roofed gate to a churchyard and was once used as a temporary shelter for the stand on which the coffin rests before burial. The lych gate at Houghton Hillside Cemetery was built in 1862 and was paid for by Sir George Elliot, Bart., M.P.
A car crashed into it in the 1960s and it was left in ruin. The structure was restored in 2006 and 2007. The following blog was written during my time with the Hillside Cemetery Friends.
To fully digest how much time and work went into the project, scroll to the bottom and read upwards in chronological order!
Copyright © Books of the North 2002 - 2008.
Thursday August 19th 2010 - This evening I made an amazing discovery! While researching Houghton's heritage, I discovered that Sir George Elliot had paid for the lych gate's erection in 1862. The archway was designed by a Mr Butterfield of London and built by a Mr Brookes of Houghton with stone from Usworth quarry; the metal railings were by a Mr Walker of Newcastle; and the oak gates were made by a Mr Henry of Durham. Sadly, as I write this, the lych gate still has its cross missing from the vandalism in February 2009.
Saturday September 1st 2007 - PHASE 3: Day 2 - We painted the tips of the railings and the finials gold, heralding in the end of the restoration! It's amazing to think that the project is at an end, but when I look around, I realise that there is still a lot more to be done! It's a shame that the wooden gates can't be restored yet. I offer my thanks to everyone who has helped with the restoration - it has been a long, winding path, but we got there in the end.
Wednesday August 22nd 2007 - PHASE 3: Day 1 - Watched the galvanised, washed and rapidly aged railings be installed. They were painted with red oxide, primed and coated with two coats of black paint. Was told that the rapid aging was so the paint doesn't chip off!This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2010
Monday June 4th 2007 - PHASE 2: Day 35 - The 'stumpy' pillar was heightened but is still 15 cm too short. Have checked my original plans and the measurements are explicit and clear. A damaged coping was replaced and the 'vintage' original pillar was pointed, bringing an end to Phase 2, which took longer than the more complex Phase 1, despite it being a simpler job! The stonemasons must have got a shock when they saw the uncovered pillar and realised that another new pillar was not needed; frustratingly "the stone had already been ordered". This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2010
Saturday June 2nd 2007 - PHASE 2: Day 33 - Excavation work was carried out earlier in the week, however my kids and I were poking around and discovered the original pillar to be preserved under a screen of ivy! Fragments of the original railing were also still attached to the pillar and coping. The soil in the area contained clinkers, ash and rubble - along with lots of rubbish, including crisp packets with sell by dates of July 1986! What a find; I can hardly believe it! This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2010
Friday May 24th 2007 - PHASE 2: Day 24 - I visited Hillside on the evening for a bat survey with Durham Bat Group. Sadly, no extra work has been carried out and measurements revealed the pillar to be 30cm too short. Look at the drawing/photo hybrid, below - the railing will be poking off to the right! I will have to contact the stonemasons to clarify what the situation is before the railings arrive. This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2010
Friday May 18th 2007 - PHASE 2: Day 18 - Work continued this week on the accompanying wall and pillar. I am keen to get my tape measure out to check everything is to plan, as the pillar does not look wide enough - it looks stumpy and not as wide as its base! This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2010
Tuesday May 1st 2007 - PHASE 2: Day 1 - Work unexpectedly got underway on Phase 2, when the stonemasons from Durham Stonemasonry & Restoration (formerly LCG Natural Stone) returned to Hillside and started erecting the dwarf wall. The Rector is not happy, as he had been assured when he gave permission that he would be kept informed of progress. At the end of the day, he personally owns the site! A new set of photos have come to light, showing the Hillside entrance, including one from the 1950s which shows how the new wall is similar to that what was there in the 1950s. Work is due to recommence after the Bank Holiday break, on Tuesday May 8th. This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2010
Friday January 23rd 2007 - News was received from the City of Sunderland Council, Parks Department, which is responsible for the maintenance of the Cemetery, that it will provide the shortfall in funding for Phase 2. Work is scheduled to start in April 2007. This is GREAT NEWS, and again, like the other funding, is as a result of our blossoming relationships with the community and hard work - and not luck, as some deluded people think!This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2010
Friday January 5th 2007 - Met Heather and Thelma (and her husband and granddaughter!) at the lych gate, and we cleared away the encroaching grass and overgrowth around the Lodge and path. The results were startling! This needs to be a bi-annual task, but more volunteers will be needed to make it achievable. Well done, everyone. We're all aching but the entrance looks great!This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2010
Thursday December 14th 2006 - Today I found out that the application to the Community Foundation for the shortfall in costs (£4,000) for phase 2 had been UNSUCCESSFUL. I'm very disappointed, as I had spent hours filling in the application form and putting the pack together; what a nice Christmas present! This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2010
Saturday November 9th 2006 - A grant from Sunderland Housing's ASPIRE for £200 was received, followed by a grant from the AllChurches Trust for £200, for Phase 2. So, it's "hats off" to both of them, particularly the AllChurches Trust, as that is the only money received to date from the Church or Church-connected body. This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2010
Saturday September 9th 2006 - Heritage Open Day - Today I gave a special site tour for the national Heritage Open Day (HODs) weekend. For the first time, I started the tour at the lych gate and visitors were told all about the recent restoration. I was pleased to see that all of the attendees were new to Hillside Cemetery and had come following the recent publicity. This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
Friday September 8th 2006 - PHASE 1: Day 24 - I am pleased to report that Phase 1 was completed today! I placed the restored cross on top, and was terrified as the Cemetery looked very different from the top of the lych gate! This important symbol will be seen by the thousands of motorists who pass up Houghton Cut on the A690 each day, and will hopefully attract some new visitors. A well-deserved-and-much-waited-for 'topping out' ceremony marked this proud occassion (ice cold sparkling wine). Stonemason John Niles was given a shatterproof flask as a thank you (his traditional one nearly got broke when the time capsule was discovered). Here's to Phase 2! This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
Thursday September 7th 2006 - PHASE 1: Day 23 - The last courses (layers) were put on the lych gate and proved to the most difficult of the entire project. Sadly, I discovered that another kerb set had been vandalised within the Cemetery. Who are these creatures who are willing to do this to a grave? This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
Monday September 4th 2006 - PHASE 1: Day 20 - Today is the 152nd anniversary of the consecration of Houghton Hillside Cemetery. On this very day in 1973, Durham Diocesan Advisory Committee granted permission for the Hillside headstones to be bulldozed. A new time capsule was interred in the lych gate today - copies of the 1973 clearance permission letters were placed inside, along with: 'Poisoning People? Houghton Hazardous Waster Site' booklet, several mint £5 coins for various anniversaries, Sunderland Echo article reporting the interment of first capsule on 29/08/06, Sunderland Echo Lledo model van, pewter medallion with George Davison's face engraved in it, a bag of Spanish pesatas, a mint one pound note from 1984, a mint Crown coin, a bag of old 5ps and shillings, Hillside Cemetery documents, old 1p pennies from 1907 - 1940s, silver threepence pieces, today's Sun and Journal newspapers, and a photo and letter to the finder. This second capsule contained many items donated by Houghton pitman, George Davison, who had missed the first capsule's interment as he had broken his foot! This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
Friday September 1st 2006 - PHASE 1: Day 19 - The familiar shape of the lych gate has now returned, and the structure is now taking the shape as it did back on Day 2, albeit in a much better condition. Applications for the shortfall of Phase 2 were sent off; I'm so pleased they are completed, as I feel exhausted. This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
Tuesday August 29th 2006 - PHASE 1: Day 16 - The new time capsule was interred in a cavity in the south 'leg' of the lych gate. The whole community contributed items, even Houghton 1st Scouts. Best selling author Sheila Quigley donated a signed copy of her first book RUN FOR HOME for inclusion. The interred items included: Photos, postcards, Church magazines, family trees, personal letters, a USB memory stick, stamps, coins, Houghton Feast programmes, drawings of the lych gate, poems, articles from the Sunderland Echo, and Scout badges and neckerchief. I really do hope that they won't be found for a very, very long time! One person said that he would have to leave town if the letter he donated was ever discovered! The lych gate is well and truly a treasure trove of secrets now! This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
Thursday August 24th 2006 - PHASE 1: Day 13 - A waterproof time capsule was constructed in preparation for interment next week. The familiar shape of the lych gate is now taking form. I was told that a metal detector 'enthusiast' was recently seen scouring the Hillside area following the recent article in the Echo about the time capsule and coins. This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
Thursday August 17th 2006 - PHASE 1: Day 8 - I took the time capsule to the Tyne & Wear Museum Service in Newcastle. The 'soggy paper' from the time capsule was looked at by paper conservator Matt Parsons. The cork had signs of poisonous vermilion in the wax seal. The wedge was submerged in clean water and slowly prised apart, revealing that it was in fact a HANDBOOK FOR THE CLERGY giving guidelines on Bible quotations and 'scripting' for various services, such as Confirmation, Burial etc. The pieces were then placed in an alkaline solution for an hour, before being placed on to blotter paper for drying. Once dried the pages will be sprayed with CMC to preserve them. Sadly the item was of no great historical value and apparently time capsules of this type were a fad of the Victorian era! This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
Wednesday August 16th 2006 - PHASE 1: Day 7 - Another course of the north leg of the archway was restored.This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
Tuesday August 15th 2006 - PHASE 1: Day 6 - Work continued on the restoration, and a portion of the north 'leg' was rebuilt. This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
Monday August 14th 2006 - PHASE 1: Day 5 - I made contact with Tyne & Wear Museums; I am to take the soggy paper from the time capsule in on Thursday for the paper conservator to have a look at. Back on site, the mechanical digger didn't turn up, so the bank side was dug away manually, revealing the original coping and fragments of the original metal railing. This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
Friday August 11th 2006 - PHASE 1: Day 4 - The stones in the south 'leg' of the archway were dismantled and a time capsule was discovered! Consisting of a corked glass jar, it contained a bundle of newspaper and several Victorian coins, dated 1853, 1860 and 1861. Sadly the cork had rotted slightly and the newspaper was soggy. It has not been touched and Tyne & Wear Archaeologist, Jenny Morrison, has been contacted over how to proceed, as it would be a shame not to see what the newspaper contains. The stonework in this area was also riddled with an ants nest. Dismantling continued on the north 'leg', which is badly damaged from ivy growth, and revealed that the adjacent dwarf wall and coping were still there, albeit buried under the hillside. I submitted a grant application today to Sunderland Housing's ASPIRE for the funding shortfall of Phase 2. This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
Wednesday August 9th 2006 - PHASE 1: Day 2 - The dropping continues. Each course (layer) is taken off in turn and each piece of stone is numbered and placed down in order. It's looking amazing! This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
Tuesday August 8th 2006 - PHASE 1: Day 1 - The security fencing was delivered yesterday. Scaffolding was erected this morning by a topless man - a proper builder, making it look like a proper building site! The area was enclosed and the 'toupe' of ivy was lifted off. Then the first courses (layers) of the archway stonework were taken down. Full access to the burial grounds is still possible, as a Rights of Way Officer was sniffing around. This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
Wednesday August 2nd 2006 - I arranged a meeting with Rev Wallis and John Niles of LCG Natural Stone (Durham Stone Masonry) at the lych gate. A torrential downpour came over and we all got wet! John outlined the scheme of work and Rev Wallis gave permission for work to start on Monday. Yippee! Something goes right for once! This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
July 29th 2006 - Permission sought from Rev Wallis for work to start on Monday. A meeting will be taking place between the Rector and stonemason on Wednesday.This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
July 20th 2006 - Confirmation received from Sunderland Council that local authority planning permission is not needed for the lych gate restoration...thank goodness for that!This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
July 5th 2006 - At a meeting, Rev Wallis requested plans/schemes of work for his and the PCC's perusal. LCG Natural Stone and SMS Fabweld were chosen as the contractors to carry out the work. This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
June 13th 2006 - LHI grant application SUCCESSFUL! Planning permission is to be sought....amazing to think that it was almost a year to the day when I started looking into the restoration!This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
June 7th 2006 - SIB grant application SUCCESSFUL! I am on cloud nine!!This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
April 20th 2006 - I submitted the grant application for £25,000 to the Local Heritage Initiative, and £7,500 application submitted to Sunderland Council SIB Coalfields (for the accompanying railing). The LHI grant will fund the lych gate stonework and accompanying community events. It was so time consuming, that I had to take a day off of work!This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
December 6th 2005 - I met again with Lorraine Weeks to discuss the LHI application. It has spurred me on!This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
June 15th 2005 - I met with Lorraine Weeks from the Local Heritage Initiative; she had some amazing ideas and advice - really positive!This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
May 25th 2005 - A meeting I had arranged with the Anthony Watson partnership of chartered architects took place. The lych gate is to be visited soon with measurements taken. It was suggested that a stonemason be appraoched direct - to cut out the middleman! This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
April 5th 2005 - I received a quotation for the production of plans for the restoration of the entrance area - circa £5000. It is likely that the fee is to be accepted and the application of grant aid will follow. This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
February 23rd 2005 - Virginia met with Dick Jones from the AW Partnership. A dead man was discovered in the snow covered Cemetery, and the police took them away for questioning! This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
November 2004 - It was discussed whether the restored entrance should have a gate, a straight wall or angular wall, based on vintage photographs. This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
October 21st 2004 - At a PCC meeting it was unanimously agreed that the lych gate could be restored in accordance with the Church of England faculty jurisdiction procedure (it was later discovered that the lych gate is not on consecrated ground, and therefore does not come under faculty jurisdiction). This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
September 4th 2004 - A visit to the site revealed that the lych gate had (and other structures) had been vandalised with spray paint. I arranged for the City Council's Graffiti squad to clean the paint off. This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
July 31st 2004 - Ivy roots, some eight inches in diametre, were cut back, prior to the Open Day, with the help of my Granddad George and his tools. This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
April 21st 2004 - John Niven, architect, visited Houghton Hillside Cemetery and inspected the lych gate structure. Due to damage caused by thick ivy roots and a car crash at Houghton Cut in the 1960s, it may be easier for the entire structure to be dismantled and rebuilt! A further inspection by a stonemason is required. Ivy growth on the north side (left) was cut back. This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
March 30th 2004 - Made an informal enquiry with architects Peter Goff and also John Niven. This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
March 19th 2004 - I discussed the restoration procedure with Bill Heslop, Care of Churches Secretary for Durham Diocese; he suggested to make informal enquiries with architects. I sent out initial enquiry letters Sunderland City Council with regard to assistance with restoration or advice on the procedure from various Council departments - no replies received as of 12/1/2005. This updated Blog is Copyright © Paul Lanagan 2004 - 2012
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[ YOU ARE HERE: Houghton Heritage > Articles > Hillside Cemetery Menu > Lych Gate Restoration ]
PAGE UPDATED: 27/08/2012
1. Parochial Church Council Permission .......................................................................[granted] 2. Ivy removal ...................................................................................................[done] 3 . Acquire quotations for repair/restoration ..............................................................[done] 4 . Apply for further funds from grant aid & other Heritage sources .................................[granted] 5 . Acquire drawings .............................................................................................[done] 6 . Seek approval/permission from City Council and St Michael's Church .....................[granted] - - - - - - - 7 . PHASE 1 - Stonework repair or dismantling/rebuilding of structure and installation of stone cross ......[completed] 8 . PHASE 2 - Restoration of dwarf wall, coping and pillars .............................................................[completed] 9 . PHASE 3 - Installation of railings and access gates ...................................................[completed] [10. PHASE 4 - Restoration of wooden gates in the archway]
The Friends of Houghton Hillside Cemetery plan to restore the lych gate at the burial ground entrance as a means of: - making the place more identifiable. - showing the community that the burial ground is not forgotten about. - deterring vandalism and youth disorder by showing that the land is not simply an unwanted woodland area. - ensuring that a historical structure will be preserved.