CHURCHES and chapels in the region will see an increase in funding this year.

The Northumbria Historic Churches Trust will increase funding to keep them open and well-maintained, and is appealing for churches to apply for grants.

The Trust will award £225,000, an increase of more than 400 per cent on recent average annual funding of around £50,000.

The Trust was established in 1981 to help maintain North-east churches through grants.

Last year, it helped 17 church projects of various sizes including stonework repairs at Hexham Abbey.

The Trust launched a new website featuring an easy-to-use online grant application form.

John Anderson, chairman of the Trust, said: “It is a wonderful blessing that Northumbria Historic Churches Trust recently received some very significant legacies. That means that we can boost the financial support we can offer to churches.  

"Churches are a vital part of local heritage, do great work in supporting local communities and are of course places of worship and also places for quiet reflection.

"Our region has over 700 churches and chapels, but many struggle to find the funding they need to pay for repairs and the installation of essential community facilities themselves.

"It is up to congregations to find the money they need and there is little or no central support from Government or denominations. That’s why our support, which is available to churches from all Christian denominations, is so important.

"As well as being grateful to those who have supported us with legacies, we remain thankful for the support of the Sir James Knott Trust and several other grant-making charities, parishes and individuals.”