Christmas funding boost for Berkshire church

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A rural Berkshire church will be celebrating this Christmas as the National Churches Trust has confirmed a grant of £15,000.

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Summer celebration as St Leonard’s receives funding boost


A  Buckinghamshire church is to receive a £20,000 National Churches Trust Cornerstone Grant for repairs to its roof, masonry, guttering and downpipes.

St Leonard's, Grendon Underwood

St Leonard’s Grendon Underwood. Photo: The National Churches Trust

The Grade II* listed St Leonard’s Church, Grendon Underwood, will be watertight and its historic fabric will be preserved by the work. The lead roof will be replaced with slate tiles.

Broadcaster and journalist Huw Edwards, Vice President of The National Churches Trust, said: “The UK’s historic churches and chapels are a vital part of our national heritage, but to survive, many need urgent repairs and modern facilities. The cost of this work is far beyond what most congregations can pay for themselves. I am, therefore, delighted that St Leonard’s, Grendon Underwood is being helped with a £20,000 National Churches Trust Cornerstone Grant. The work will help to secure the future of an historic building and may also help to remove the church from the Historic England Heritage at Risk Register.

Records about the church date back to 1223. Part of the nave is probably from the 12th Century and the chancel dates back from the 14th Century. The tower was built around 1460. There are wooden panels on the side of the pulpit which date back from the 1620s and there are three marble monuments commemorating local dignitaries dating back to the 18th Century.

The Revd David Hiscock, the team rector, said: “We are delighted to receive this support from the National Churches Trust. The church continues to be the focal point of the village for worship. In recent years we have organised live entertainment, public meetings, breakfasts and hot lunches in winter and afternoon teas in summer. It is fantastic to know that once this work is complete, we will have a building for future generations to enjoy.”

The latest National Churches Trust grants will benefit 46 churches and chapels in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. The charity supports the maintenance of church buildings of all Christian denominations across the UK.

Last year, the National Churches Trust helped support 202 projects with grants of £1.2 million. 23 churches and chapels were removed from the Heritage at Risk Register in 2018 with the support of the Trust’s grants.
Churches and chapels open for regular public worship (i.e. more than six services a year) and in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man and the Channel Islands can apply for a grant from the National Churches Trust.

On your marks for the 2017 Ride and Stride


AS fans gear up to watch the pro cyclists speed through Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire during the Tour of Britain race, another high profile to raise money for historic churches will be taking place across the Diocese of Oxford. The annual Ride and Stride will take place on Saturday 9 September when people of all levels of endurance and enthusiasm can pedal, hike or horse ride around as many churches as possible.

Ride and Striders at St Katherine’s in Berkshire in 2016

This is an event which appeals to churchgoers and non-churchgoers alike, anyone in fact who enjoys a good walk, cycle or horse ride. Schools can take part or perhaps get involved in drawing up cycling and walking routes around the local area. Youth groups, walking groups or exercise classes or cycling groups all might enjoy the challenge and for other, not so active, groups and individuals there are lots of ways to help. Organisers need volunteers to man churches, provide refreshments and sponsor participants. Routes don’t have to start or finish at your local church and can be as long or as short as you wish, but half of what you raise from sponsorship will come back to the church of your choice.

For historic churches trusts, this is the major fundraiser of the year and brings in vital funds for churches in need of repair. It is a national event which offers everyone who appreciates the beauty and history of our local churches the chance to get out and visit as many as they can, raising money in the process to help save them for future generations.

Last year, thousands of participants battled the rain to support Ride+Stride. They cycled, walked, pushed buggies, rode horses and even drove vintage tractors between churches and raised thousands of pounds in the process. Oxfordshire fielded their youngest every participant, three-month old Sebastian, (aided and abetted by his mum) while at the other end of the spectrum, 94-year-old Muriel walked to twelve churches around Oxford.

Your local churches trusts – Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire – are hoping for an enthusiastic turnout this year. Information is available on their websites or through the network of county and local church coordinators or via the national Ride+Stride website

Joint patron, the Rt Revd Andrew Proud, Bishop of Reading, says: “Wherever you go in our counties, on hilltops, nestling in the folds of hills, or on the bends in rivers, you will find a beautiful, historic church, waiting to be discovered. Ride+Stride is a wonderful way to enjoy some of our beautiful countryside and discover some of these gems for yourself. Please help us keep our churches open, not only today, but for our grandchildren’s children, too.”



‘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. 

Repair joy for historic Oxfordshire church

THE historic St Margaret of Antioch Church in Hinton Waldrist church is to recieve £10,000 from the National Churches Trust.

The grant will help to fund urgent repairs to make the roof watertight and enable it to be opened up for community use. The church features in a set of Victorian photographs whose secrets were uncovered by Queen guitarist Brian May. St Margaret of Antioch is one of 29 churches and chapels in the UK to benefit from the latest grants from the National Churches Trust, the UK church repair and support charity.

Broadcaster and Journalist Huw Edwards, Vice-President of the National Churches Trust said: “I’m delighted that the future of St Margaret of Antioch, Hinton Waldrist, is being safeguarded by a £10,000 National Churches Trust Repair Grant. The funding will help ensure that this much loved historic church can continue at the heart of its rural community.”

“At the heart of the nation’s history and at the centre of local communities, churches and chapels are some of the UK’s best loved local buildings. But their future is not guaranteed”

Huw Edwards at Hinton Waldrist Church

“The financial and practical support provided by the National Churches Trust helps many of UK’s churches, chapels and meeting houses continue to flourish at the heart of their communities by preserving their architecture and keeping their facilities up to date.”

“Everyone can make a contribution to the future of the UK’s churches and chapels by volunteering to help look after these precious buildings. If you’ve got practical skills you could help clear drains and gutters, if you are a good communicator you could help show people the history and architecture of a local church or you could simply be a good neighbour and keep an eye out for vandals or thieves.”

“Churches and chapels may be historic buildings, but they can be part of our future, too.”

An early church on this site was mentioned in the Domesday Book. The earliest part of the current building are the thirteenth century nave, chancel, and western tower; the church has stood largely unchanged for 700 years. The tower houses six bells, some dating from 1709, which are regularly rung for services and by visiting ringers. A window in the south transept is dedicated to the memory of Airey Neave, who was the local MP and lived in Hinton Waldrist before his assassination in 1979. Wall tablets dating from 1701 commemorate the Loder family who owned the manor for over 250 years.

The Queen guitarist Brian May has been closely associated with Hinton Waldrist, through his research into the stereoscopic imagery of the Victorian photographer TR Williams who immortalised the village as a snapshot of a vanishing way of life in the 1850s.

The National Churches Trust’s £10,000 Repair Grant will help fund urgent  and vital repairs to secure the roof and walls. The stone slate roof will be renewed, woodwork repaired, and masonry repointed. The work means the church will be safe enough to remove from the Historic England Heritage At Risk Register. Securing the fabric of the building will enable continued worship and allow the church to become a welcoming focal point for the community.

The rural community of 240 people have already managed to secure nearly £400,000, and anticipate increased interest in and use of their historic building. A local historian has created a unique timeline recording the family histories for those from the village who were killed in both world wars, and future development will create a permanent home for the exhibition.

Riding, striding and scooting for historic churches

A TEAM of cyclists pedalled from the Lords “the home of cricket” in London to their own home of village cricket in Wytham in Oxfordshire.

Tom Hollis and his cricket friends about to cycle from Lords to Wytham.

Tom Hollis and his cricket friends about to cycle from Lords to Wytham.

The four men, from Wytham Cricket Club, raised £1,200 for the Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust. They were among hundreds of people in Oxfordshire, Berkshire and Buckinghamshire who once again chose to ride bikes or horses or walk around as many churches as possible to raise funds for their respective Historic Churches Trusts.

Tom Hollis, Captain of Wytham Cricket Club, said this was the second year running the cricketers had decided to get on their bikes for the Ride and Stride.
Tom said: “Our route took us out along the Grand Union Canal and then to Stoke Poges, Bourne End, Cookham and Marlow before we started climbing the Chilterns.
Once we’d (with a small diversion in error) crested the hills at Christmas Common we headed back to Oxford via Watlington, Cuxham, Chalgrove and Stadhampton. Highlights included riding through Burnham Beeches and the views of Oxfordshire as we rode down into Watlington.

“I have to admit that as we approached the 60 mile mark we were delighted to see signs for Oxford, and gradually to see the tower blocks of Blackbird Leys on the skyline.”

They arrived in Wytham after six hours and 30 minutes in the saddle. The Friends of All Saints Church had the bunting out and rang the bells as they arrived. “The cold beers that were waiting were very welcome too,” added Tom. “We were pleased with what we raised but we would love to push that figure even higher.” To sponsor the cyclists go to In Radley, near Oxford, a mini event gave young children the chance to walk around the village church or scoot up the path.

The Revd Pam McKellen said: “We have decided to attach a project to it as OHCT is good at helping us.  We are aiming for £2,000 and £1,000 will go to the OHCT, the other will pay for a replacement gate.”
Meanwhile in Buckinghamshire, the MP for Beaconsfield, Dominic Grieve cycled, visiting every church in his constituency. Mr Grieve, who does the ride every four years started at St Thomas, Holtspur and finished at All Saints Bisham. He had cycled about 50 miles.

Dominic Grieve and son Hugo set off from St Thomas's in Mayflower Way Holtspur on a sponsored cycle ride to raise funds for the Buckinghamshire Historic Churches Trust. Photo: Buckingham shire Advertiser.

Dominic Grieve and son Hugo set off from St Thomas’s in Mayflower Way Holtspur on a sponsored cycle ride to raise funds for the Buckinghamshire Historic Churches Trust. Photo: Buckingham shire Advertiser.

In Berkshire a group from Binfield visited churches in White Waltham, Shottesbrooke, Waltham St Lawrence, Ruscombe, Twyford, Hurst and Binfield with a couple going on to Sonning and Henley.
Clive Betteridge, of the Berkshire Historic Churches Trust said: “We also had a team of motor-cyclists who were attempting a round-Berkshire trip from Lambourn in the west to Old Windsor in the east and back by a different route.”


No more drips at St Brits


AFTER years of patching up the slipped and broken tiles and of strategically placing buckets and towels on the pews and over the hymn books, St Britius Church Brize Norton has a beautiful new roof.St Britius's Church, Brize Norton

The re-roofing of this Grade 2* listed building has been a huge undertaking, costing almost £400,000. A dedicated team set up the ‘Stop the drips at St Brits’ campaign, and worked tirelessly, organising events and applying for grants. The people of the village really got behind the project and turned out to support the many and varied events, which ranged from pancake suppers to balls and a beer festival.

The project was generously supported by English Heritage, WREN (Waste Recycling Environmental Ltd) and the Oxfordshire Historic Churches Trust. Grants and donations were also received from the Garfield Weston Foundation, the Wolfson Foundation, Allchurches Trust and the Bartlett Taylor Trust as well as RAF Brize Norton Charities Committee and other local businesses and individuals.

The Rt Reverend Colin Fletcher, the Bishop of Dorchester,  joined the congregation and villagers for a Songs of Praise and Thanksgiving on Sunday 16th June to celebrate the completion of the beautiful new roof. Jacquie Griffin, the Churchwarden said: “This church has stood at the centre of Brize Norton for 900 years, providing continuity and a focal point for the whole community. It is wonderful that we can now pass it on in a sound and secure state for future generations to enjoy.”The only way is up!