‘Bridget Jones’ church in the Ride and Stride

DESPITE wind and searing rain hundreds of people turned out for the annual Ride and Stride to raise funds for historic churches in the Diocese.

And one of the churches highlighted in national publicity, was St Lawrence’s, West Wycombe, where the wedding scene in the new Bridget Jones’s Baby movie was filmed. St Lawrence’s is already on the tourist map as it is on West Wycombe Hill, a National Trust park, which features the stately home of the Dashwood Family.

Joshua Harris, of Cohanim Architecture, poses at St Lawrence’s, West Wycombe. Photo: John McAllister

Joshua Harris, of Cohanim Architecture, poses at St Lawrence’s, West Wycombe. Photo: John McAllister

A team of Striders from the Swan team of churches in Buckinghamshire after a damp day’s walking.

A team of Striders from the Swan team of churches in Buckinghamshire after a damp day’s walking.

Brian Prosser, the treasurer at St Lawrence’s, had previously worked with film production companies before he retired from his work as an insurance broker. He first heard that the film company were interested in the church when he took a call from West Wycombe Park. “They told me they were interested in using the church for the wedding scene. About 20 people turned up, the full production team for Bridget Jones.” Part of the deal meant someone from the church was present every day during the filming, so Brian, his wife and his daughter-in-law watched the whole process.  They completely stripped the church, they took everything out, even the font, but they took photographs of everything and put it all back. The day after they left you would never have known they had been there,” he said. “It was jolly interesting. I had to sign a confidentiality statement saying I wouldn’t discuss what was going on. They filmed a couple of different endings for the scene. They came back two weeks later to borrow a pew for a day because one of the scenes hadn’t come out very well. They took the pew to the studio to re-film it there.”

The film crew also left the flowers, which Brian says must have cost thousands of pounds, for the church. Brian said there were enough to decorate both St Lawrence’s and St Paul’s Church, also in West Wycombe. The production company also delayed the filming so that they did not disrupt Remembrance Sunday services.

Brian was speaking just a few days after the Ride and Stride, which despite the bad weather, saw people riding cycles and horses and walking around churches across the UK, to raise money for the Historic Churches Trusts. The National Historic Churches Trust used the Bridget Jones line to publicise the event at St Lawrence’s.

The trusts across the country aims to raise funds for repairs to churches and has helped St Lawrence’s with a donation of £5,000 towards a £7,000 repair scheme for dry rot. While not an urgent project, St Lawrence’s is working with Joshua Harrison, of Cohanim Architecture to re-build a room that was demolished in the 1960s because it was unsafe. The £50,000 scheme will provide a room for children’s work, as well as providing more space during special events. Across the Diocese, churches were open, many with refreshments, for people taking part in the Ride and Stride. Basil Eastwood, Chair of the Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust, took part in a peloton of six people, including Bishop Colin, to cycle around churches for the annual event. “The weather wasn’t what it could have been but we all had a good time and ended up rather pleased,” said Basil. Sponsorship is still coming in and being counted, but the event usually raises around £130,000 for the Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust.

Nina Newton, from the Buckinghamshire Historic Churches Trust, cycled 58 miles on an Eliptigo – a stand-up bicycle that works both the legs and the upper body. Nina said she spent 18 hours travelling between churches in the wet weather. Nina, who has been publicising the Buckinghamshire Ride and Stride, said: “Lots of churches were open with refreshments and there were lots of heritage open days. I did cut my ride slightly short in the end as visibility was getting so poor.”

Nina said that in her Deanery alone there were two long walks, one of 17 miles and one of 18 miles. “There was one walk that left from Waddesdon at 10am and got to its destination at 6.45pm.”
Clive Betteridge, of the Berkshire Historic Churches Trust, cycled 14 miles and visited several churches. He said: “The weather put a lot of people off. It was hard but with proper wet weather gear it was okay and most of the churches had made the effort to provide tea and coffee.”

Also in Buckinghamshire, the Swan Team of Churches used the event ride and Stride to celebrate the 40th anniversary of its formation with a stride between its seven churches.  Peter Hornigold, the church warden at St Leonard’s, Grendon Underwood, said: “At 9am, on one of the wettest days of the year, a team set off from Barton Hartshorn and walked via Chetwode, Preston Bissett to Twyford where we enjoyed a Ploughman’s Lunch. After lunch we continued to Marsh Gibbon, Edgcott and at 4.30 pm arrived tired, sore and wet at Grendon Underwood. We were provided with refreshments and made welcome at all the churches on route. Congratulations to the 8 intrepid walkers who completed the whole 15 mile route and the 3 who undertook half the journey.”

The Bridget Jones’s Baby movie was due to be released in cinemas from September 16. 

Filming in churches can be a great opportunity for raising funds and for positive publicity, but a Faculty is needed. Contact the Registry on 01865 297211 or your Archdeacon. 

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