BACK TO LIFE PROJECT
The Back to Life project's main aim was to restore the Lych Gate and the Railings found at the entrance to Hillside. It was a mammoth task and the majority of the funding was gained from LHI. Work began towards the end of the summer 2006 and completed in the summer of 2007 when the last of the railings were installed and painted.
Pictured above is the Lych Gate before any work commenced. You will note that it was covered in ivy and other fauna which had to be removed. When the ivy etc was removed it became apparant that the Lych Gate had been infact damaged during a road traffic accident in the 1960's and the damaged corner stone still remained broken.
Once the work commenced to restore the Lych Gate it had to be dismantled stone by stone. Each stone was numbered as it was taken down. This enabled the stonemason to rebuild the Lych Gate exactly as it had been dismantled.
During the dismantling of the Lych Gate a Victorian time capsule was discovered. It took the form of a glass bottle and contained coins and a prayer book. The time capsule was dried and it is soon to be placed in the Heritage Centre within St Michael & All Angels Church, Houghton Le Spring.
During the re-building of the Lych Gate the Friends put together their own time capsule which was placed inside the stonework of the Lych Gate.
Above: The gate during reconstruction.
Pictured above is the Lych Gate shortly after restoration and before the Railings had been constructed.
Pictured above and below is the Lych Gate how it looks today with the railings fully installed. Readers will note that the original pillar is present to the left of the gateway. This was discovered when the group were carrying out work prior to the railings being installed.
More pictures of the Lych Gate and restoration can be found in the gallery section of this site.
This is the next project which the group intend to undertake. The main obectives are to restore the monument at the far end of the site and also to excavate the buried headstones.
In order to restore the monument funding from SIB was secured in the sum of £10,500. The group also received funds from the NUM in order to pay for the plaque which now adorns the finished monument. The total cost of the restoration of the monument was in the region of £14,000 therefore the group carried out extensive sponsored events in order to fund the shortfall themselves.
Pictured above is the monument which the group intend to restore as part of the Phoenix Project. This is how it used to look.
This is how the site of the monument looks today. You will see that the column has long since been taken down and it is used today as a seat at the site.
In order for the work to commence the stone had to be ordered and delivered to Durham Stonemasonry who were to carry out the work for the group. In order for it to be cut to size and the replica cross for the top of the monument to be made at the workshop.
Pictured above are some of the pieces of stone after having been cut at the workshop.
Also in preparation of the restoration the existing founds had to be cleared and made safe. In order to do so the group found another problem looming. There were tree roots in the founds which had to be removed before the founds could be made safe. As it was impossible for the group to take the roots out themselves further cost was incurred! The Friends were beginning to wonder whether the work would actually take place. BUT despite the set backs the roots were removed and the founds were made safe.
Pictured above are the founds after having been made safe.
Next came the task of transporting the stone from the workshops of Durham Stonemasonry to Hillside ready for erection. The stones making up the column of the memorial were in several sections and had to be pieced together on site.
The final touches (the flags surrounding the base) were put in place in May 2010 and the unveiling of the monument took place at the groups annual Open Day on 26th June 2010. The monument was unveiled by Frank Nicholson who has also now agreed to be a patron to the group.
As part of Action Earth Day a group of young volunteers made a start on the steps leading to the monument so that it can be easily accessed. This was to be an on going project as the steps could not be completed in one day.
A week later:-
More Photos can be found in the image gallery
Now the monument is fully restored it is dedicated to the men and boys who lost their lives at Houghton Colliery and to those who lie at Hillside in unmarked graves.
As usual the group laid a Poppy Wreath at Hillside on Remembrance Day 2010 as a mark of respect to the 4 war dead who are buried at Hillside. As the exact location of the 4 graves are currently unknown it was decided to lay the wreath at the base of the newly restored monument.
Picture above is the Poppy Wreath placed at Hillside.
The finishing touches have now been carried out to the front of the Monument. The Friends are highly pleased with the work.