£900,000 needed to restore Bucks church

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MUSKET holes believed to be from a siege by Cromwell’s Army are peppered across the door of All Saints, Hillesden.
Hillesden-8898-sWhile the Revd Ros Roberts, the vicar, says there is no absolute proof of how the holes came to be there, it is generally thought they are from the Civil War in the 17th century. In the Hillesden entry into England’s Thousand Best Churches Simon Jenkins repeats this as a fact as well as describing All Saints as one of the most important examples of perpendicular Gothic architecture. It is famous for its link with Sir George Gilbert Scott, who says it fired his enthusiasm for the Gothic.

Now as well as being a place of interest for historians and a place of worship, the church is the only meeting place in the Buckinghamshire village. But it urgently needs to raise £95,000 for immediate, vital work. The long-term project has been split into phases and the rest of the money to be raised through various community fundraising events, grants and donations.

The church has already secured some funding from the Bucks Historic Churches Trust and is hoping to get an English Heritage grant towards the work.

Ros says: “This is an interesting building from lots of perspectives; the architecture, the history, the stained glass windows and as a community building. We have worship here every Sunday.”

The PCC and congregation is working to develop the historic building and resource as a place of prayer and pilgrimage for visitors and groups. They are also hoping to find ways for local schools to use it as a teaching resource.

“Both of the east windows are severely damaged and will fall out if we have another winter of bad frost. The stone work, especially the pinnacles on the East Round Tower were so bad we had to take it off for safety. If we are not able to make the essential holding and phase one repairs, which will cost £250,000 this year, the church could in the future be declared unsafe at great loss to the community.”

Cromwell’s Army destroyed most of the stained glass windows, which were replaced by plain glass, but one window remains in the east wall of the South Transept, which depicts eight scenes from the life of St Nicholas. The Rt Revd Alan Wilson, the Bishop of Buckingham, says this is one of his favourite stained glass windows and even used it as the image on his Christmas card one year.

Originally the Denton family owned a manor house next to the church, but that was burned down following a siege by the Parliamentarians. The site of the house is now a deer park and the door to All Saints is believed to have originally been the door to the house.

07-15-2009-09-21-31-684The other side of the church looks out over miles and miles of fields. “It is called the Cathedral in the Fields because it is in the middle of some fields and it looks like a cathedral,” said Ros.

Another feature that Ros was keen to point out was a choir of angels, on the roof of the chapel, complete with musical instruments. Once the more essential restoration work is completed, Ros is keen to see the angels, which still bear the remnants of their original blue and gold paint, fully restored too.

“People like angels and we have thought about running an adopt-an-angel scheme to raise funds. We could get experts in to talk about angels and we think that could prove popular,” she added.

If you would like to make a donation to All Saints, contact Lenborough Vicarage 01280 813162 or cheques to Hillesden PCC c/o 2 Sandhurst drive Buckingham MK18 1DT with a note stating it is for the restoration fund.


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